Lions’ Akiyama set up for 2019 free agency

Shogo Akiyama
Shogo Akiyama, center, appears set to follow teammate Kazuo Matsui (left) to the majors.

Seibu Lions center fielder Shogo Akiyama turned down a multiyear contract extension on Monday, a move that will make the 30-year-old eligible for international free agency a year from now. Last month, Akiyama won his fifth Golden Glove and his third Pacific League Best Nine Award. He finished in the voting for PL MVP. The left-handed hitter became eligible for domestic free agency after the 2017 season, but signed a two-year contract to remain with the Lions. “He didn’t say he had any particular plans right now (for next year),” Seibu Senior Director Hisanobu Watanabe said. The Lions have lost three key players from 2018, when they won the PL for the first time in 10 years. Second baseman Hideto Asamura, the runner-up in the MVP voting left as a free agent for the PL’s Rakuten Eagles, while Ginjiro Sumitani, the former No. 1 catcher, filed for free agency and joined the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants. On Monday, the Lions filed the paperwork needed to post lefty Yusei Kikuchi. “Losing that many key players means that everyone’s going to have more opportunities,” Akiyama said after meeting with team officials. “For me, next season is going to be one of challenges.”

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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