The Reds said so Shogo Akiyama that he will not be included in the opening day squad, said Reds GM Nick Krall C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic and other reporters. The team have also announced minor league signings Trey Wingenter and Andrew Knapp that they will not break camp.
Akiyama’s three-year, $21 million contract gives him the right to turn down a minor league assignment, and he’s already turned down a visit to Triple-A late in the 2021 season (he had some underage actions last year as part of a rehab -Order). If Akiyama actually declines to go back to Triple-A, the Reds appear poised to designate him for action and, in all likelihood, eat the $8 million owed to the outfielder for the 2021 season.
After nine seasons as a standout performance for the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball, Akiyama came to Major League Baseball and averaged just .224/.320/.274 in 366 plate appearances in a Cincinnati uniform. His first season had some promising flashes, as Akiyama was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award in left field and posted a .357 OBP in 183 plate appearances. However, he started the 2021 season with a month-long stint in the IL with a hamstring problem and simply never got on the track, playing in 88 games and amassing 183 PA as a part-time player.
Akiyama was blunt about his performance when speaking to Rosecrans and other reporters through a translator, saying, “at two years, those are the results that are out there” and “It’s just a shame I don’t have as many memorable momentsOf course, Akiyama joined the majors just before the pandemic changed the world, but he was only alluding to those unusual circumstances by saying, “I don’t know what the actual true self is with me… But realistically I can still play. i can play hard i know i can play So I just have to move on with this situation.”
The contract turned into an expensive backfire for the Reds, which is all the more striking considering how the team has slashed their payroll for much of the last two off-seasons, particularly this winter. There doesn’t seem to be a chance that another team would claim Akiyama’s DFA waiver and thus absorb his entire $8 million salary. So if a team is interested, they can wait out the waiver period and then only sign Akiyama for a minimum salary. with the Reds covering the remainder of the $8 million owed.
Even given Akiyama’s lack of production in the major leagues, it seems possible that another team could take a flyer on him for such a limited cost. The Padres, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Rays, Blue Jays, and Cardinals all had some interest in Akiyama when he came over from NPB, so at least one of those former admirers might take a look to see if Akiyama (who turns 34 today month) can erupt in a new environment.
Wingenter and Knapp both signed minor-league deals just before the lockdown was implemented. Wingenter has only played two innings this spring due to an elbow injury, and the right-hander has already told the Reds he will not exercise his opt-out. Knapp has to decide by Monday whether or not to make use of his own opt-out afterwards Aramis Garcia won the contest to be Cincinnati’s backup catcher.