After meeting with teams at the Winter Meetings (oh hey, that’s why they’re called meetings!), Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama is reportedly down to the decision-making process.
A translated article out of Japan indicates that he is likely to choose from among the four teams he spoke to at the meetings, with a decision made by Christmas:
Shogo Akiyama has apparently finished negotiating with 4 different clubs, and hopes to make a decision about which MLB team he'll sign with by Christmas. Cubs, Diamondbacks, Rays and Reds rumored to be the 4 clubs https://t.co/6wqv5Wx29F #mlb #npb
— NPB on reddit (@NPB_Reddit) December 14, 2019
That gives Akiyama just about 10 days to make a decision – and involved teams a little more time to make a final push, and/or coordinate other moves around his decision.
So the final four are the Cubs, Reds, Diamondbacks, and Rays, eh? If true, it would make that Cardinals report yesterday entirely bogus, which is kinda what we were wondering. It’s also possible that *this* report out of Japan is a little thin on details of the involved teams, and was just going off the reported meetings. In any case, the timeline sounds legit.
It’s possible that the Rays are out, having just signed fellow Japanese outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. There isn’t positional overlap in a strict sense, but the club signs only so many free agents ($$$), and with Kevin Kiermaier already in center field for the Rays, there isn’t a starting job there available for Akiyama. Of course, it’s possible he wouldn’t be a dedicated starter in center field (or even a corner spot) on any of the involved clubs, but I’m just saying: the chances the Rays are aggressive probably went down a little bit. (Though the flip side of that is you never know if there’s a comfort factor involved in maybe him wanting to transition to MLB with another star from the NPB on his same club.)
Let’s imagine, though, that it’s down to the Cubs, Reds, and Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks probably have the geographic advantage, being considerably further west. They also have a very clear path to regular starts in the outfield, and they’ve been on Akiyama from the beginning. The Reds’ interest has been less apparent until recently, and they would seem to be looking more at Akiyama as a coordinating piece in an outfield mix that already features four semi-regular starters.
On the Cubs, assuming he’s healthy and not a total disaster in the transition, Akiyama would likely start in center field most days, while also getting the first long look at leading off. He makes contact, he runs the bases well, he has won awards for being a good dude, and so on and so on. Like we’ve said from the jump on him – even before Cubs interest was reported – the fit is extremely obvious in so many ways. Even if he winds up becoming more of a 4th outfielder type than a starter in center field, the Cubs could still really use him, because their upper-level outfield depth – the kind that could immediately push in at the big league level – is currently almost non-existent.
Get it done, Cubs.