The St. Louis Cardinals need to fight the Reds for Shogo Akiyama
By Matt Graves
The St. Louis Cardinals have already dipped into the foreign markets once this offseason and should do it again to fend off the Reds in the NL Central.
While the St. Louis Cardinals have been largely sitting on their hands this winter, the Reds have been improving. They have already added Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley among others and while they may have been 12 games under .500 last year, they were one of the most unlucky teams. By Pythagorean W/L, the Reds should’ve gone 80-82. Getting just 75 wins means they were unlucky.
With their only signing of the offseason, the Cardinals got Kwang-Hyun Kim from Korea. The only other position the team has committed to going after is a left-handed outfield bat. Near the same league where the team got Kim from, there is an outfielder named Shogo Akiyama (there are multiple spellings out there). Akiyama plays in Japan and the Reds are among the teams said to be in the running for the outfielder.
If you’re like me and had no idea about Akiyama, let me tell you some more about him.
Akiyama plays for the Saitama Seibu Lions in Japan and is 31 years old. He has almost zero injury history and great durability as he has played in all 143 games of the JPPL season in the past five years.
In his career, Akiyama has a .301/.376/.454 slash line which is good for a .829 lifetime OPS. He has averaged about 13 homers a year but in the past three seasons he has hit 25, 24, and 20 homers. He’s also been a lock to steal between 15-20 bases a year as well. Akiyama hits a ton of doubles and clearly has the gap power and speed combo that could have no problems translating. Basically, he’s a gap power hitter from the left side with speed and durability.
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Of course, how skills will translate to the MLB is always the biggest question with any foreign player, but speed (at least) doesn’t slump.
I recently ranked the Reds as the #1 team in the NL Central (right now) and that is with an outfield of Jessie Winker, Nick Senzel, and Aristides Aquino. I haven’t read anything that said that Akiyama would come in and start over any of those three, but with an average OPS of .896 over the past five years, Akiyama definitely looks like a weapon.
The Reds are greatly improved and are shopping in the same aisle as the Cardinals and the Cardinals can’t let them best them in this fight.
As Mr. Saxon mentions, Akiyama doesn’t have a posting fee which makes him more attractive to the MLB teams looking at him. The leaders for him again are the Reds and the Padres and I’m sure if you asked Mr. Mozeliak about it, he would say they are on the “periphery” of the market for Akiyama but decline to comment further.
The Cardinals are likely going to allow the kids to play, but with Marcell Ozuna likely gone, it would be perfectly justifiable to bring in a bat to play left field. Akiyama would be more expensive than Kim I’m sure, but would not cost anything near the $15-20M a year that Ozuna is expected to get.
If the Cardinals expect to keep their NL Central crown, not allowing the Reds to get Akiyama might be a necessity. I’m not sure if Kim’s signing makes the Cardinals any more attractive to Akiyama than before, but maybe every little bit helps. If the Reds do end up with Akiyama, I hope Mo enjoys watching him play against the Cardinals 18 times a year.