According to a report from Japan’s Nikkan Sports, which has been all over the Shogo Akiyama story, the outfielder has reached an agreement with the Reds on a three-year deal expected to be over $15 million. That’s a little more than what some believed he was seeking, but it’s right in line with what Bruce Levine of 670 The Score had put out there earlier in the month.
Akiyama had been a Cubs target and would have satisfied their needs for an everyday centerfielder with a contact-heavy, high-OBP plate approach, but the cost was higher than their baseball budget currently allows. Akiyama will turn 32 in April and recently suffered a broken foot, so there was some question about how he’ll age. Neither of those factors necessarily bodes well for him, particularly when his defense appears to be on the decline, though $5 million AAV is hardly a big risk.
In addition to missing out on a player who seemed like a good fit, the Cubs have to deal with a division rival landing said player. Not only that, but the Reds had the Cubs’ number last season and have been aggressive this winter in making improvements. After going 8-11 against the Reds in 2019, their worst record against any divisional opponent, the Cubs are only .500 against them over the last two seasons. And now Cincy has a more balanced lineup to go with a solid pitching staff.
So with the Brewers and Cardinals similarly stagnant in their efforts to improve for next season, the biggest threat to Cubs may come from below. Not exactly encouraging for a team that finished third in the Central after collapsing down the stretch.
So, uh, happy New Year!