The San Francisco Giants could be in the market for a center fielder this offseason, and Japanese League standout Shogo Akiyama is an intriguing potential target.
One of the first big decisions of the offseason for the San Francisco Giants will be whether to tender Kevin Pillar a contract.
The 30-year-old is projected to earn $9.7 million in his final year of arbitration, which would represent a significant raise over the $5.8 million he made this past season.
Pillar was a solid performer after coming over in an April trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, but his .293 on-base percentage leaves a lot to be desired and he’s not the Gold Glove-caliber defender he was in his prime.
If the Giants do ultimately decide a non-tender is the right move, a replacement will be needed in center field after Steven Duggar failed to establish himself in 2019.
The free-agent market is extremely thin on quality options and trade candidate Starling Marte might cost more from a prospect standpoint than the Giants are willing to pay.
With that in mind, Shogo Akiyama could be an intriguing under-the-radar target.
The 31-year-old has spent the past eight seasons playing with the Seibu Lions in the Japanese League, hitting .301/.376/.454 over 5,326 plate appearances.
The past three seasons he’s seen an uptick in his power production with a trio of 20-homer seasons, and in 2019 he batted .303/.392/.471 with 31 doubles and 20 home runs.
As an international free agent, Akiyama will not require a posting fee or a bonus that counts against the team’s amateur spending limits, which could give him widespread appeal to MLB teams.
According to a recent Yahoo Japan report, the San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks are among the teams that have shown initial interest.
However, the Lions also intend to make a push to sign him to a long-term deal, and other NPB teams could also make a run at signing one of the league’s most accomplished players.
There are a lot of moving parts here, but don’t be surprised if the San Francisco Giants get involved in the Shogo Akiyama sweepstakes, especially if Kevin Pillar is cut loose to begin the offseason.