The final shoe drops: Akiyama signs with Cincinnati Reds

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.

His deal is tied for the second richest by an NPB position player. Outfielder Hideki Matsui and shortstop Kazuo Matsui each signed for the same length and amount in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

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.

Ichiro Suzuki2001RF27314
Tsuyoshi Shinjo2001CF2910.5
So Taguchi2002LF3333
Hideki Matsui2003CF29321
Kazuo Matsui2004SS28321
Norihiro Nakamura20053B311minor
Kenji Jojima2006C30316.5
Tadahito Iguchi20062B3024.95
Akinori Iwamura20073B2837.7
Kosuke Fukudome2008RF30448
Tsuyoshi Nishioka2011SS2639
Norichika Aoki2012CF3022.25
Munenori Kawasaki2012SS310minor
Hiroyuki Nakajima2013SS3026.5
Kensuke Tanaka20132B320minor
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo2020LF28212
Shogo Akiyama2020CF31321

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