Shogo Akiyama signed a three-year $21-million contract with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, making him the first Japanese player to grace the club’s 40-man roster.
Akiyama was one of four NPB regulars hoping to move to the majors and the last one to lock up a deal with an MLB club. Left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, while right-handed pitcher Shun Yamaguchi this past week hooked up with the Toronto Blue Jays. Second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi returned to the Hiroshima Carp on a four-year extension after failing to get a guaranteed contract in the States.
The 31-year-old Seibu Lions captain, leadoff man and center fielder becomes the 16th pure position player to attempt to transition to the major leagues — not counting two-way star Shohei Ohtani.
My profile of Akiyama is HERE.
Akiyama, who set Japan’s single-season hit record in 2013, has moderate power to all fields, excellent plate coverage and above-average speed. With the exception of Ohtani, he and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Yoshitomo Tsutsugo are the first Japanese position players to sign with a major league club since middle infielders Hiroyuki Nakajima and Kensuke Tanaka joined the A’s and Giants, respectively, in 2013.
Position players moving from NPB to majors
The table below lists all the pure position players who have signed with MLB teams after playing in NPB. The positions given are for where they played in Japan.