Star Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama is ready to make the jump across the Pacific in 2020, and a pair of MLB teams have already begun to pursue him.
Akiyama has spent his entire nine-year career to date with the Pacific League's Seibu Lions. The 31-year-old is a career .301/.376/.454 hitter with 116 homers, 513 RBIs, and 112 stolen bases. In 2019, he posted a .864 OPS while leading the PL in runs scored (112) and hits (179) while playing in all 143 games for the fifth straight season.
Akiyama is noted for being an on-base machine; he's posted an OBP of .385 or higher every year since 2015 and scored at least 100 runs in four of the last five seasons. His best season came in 2015 when he slashed .359/.419/.522 and recorded a Japanese single-season record 216 hits.
Unlike another Japanese outfielder looking to come to the majors in Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Akiyama is an international free agent and will not be subjected to the MLB-NPB posting process.
D-Backs general manager Mike Hazen confirmed to Piecoro that Akiyama is an outfielder they'll be targeting in hopes of upgrading at the position.
"We think he's a good player," D-Backs general manager Mike Hazen said of Akiyama, according to Piecoro. "… We're in the outfield market, the center-field market, specifically. We're in the entire market."
The Blue Jays - who are also expected to upgrade their outfield this offseason - don't have much of a history of signing players out of Japan, but that could change soon. GM Ross Atkins acknowledged having interest in both Akiyama and Tsutsugo (the latter was previously linked to Toronto), and the team has spent "a lot of time" doing background work on both players, according to Nicholson-Smith.
"We'll continue to engage with their representatives and understand if they're potential fits," Atkins said.