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Cincinnati Reds sign first Japan-born player for $21M

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Reds have signed Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million contract.

Akiyama is now under contract with Cincinnati through the 2022 season, according to the deal announced Monday, and is the first Japanese-born player to play for the Reds.

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Cincinnati is the only Major League Baseball franchise that's yet to debut a Japanese-born player.

Akiyama's deal includes a $6 million salary for 2020, $7 million in 2021 and $8 million in 2022. The 31-year-old outfielder hit .301 in nine seasons with the Seibu Lions and averaged 23 home runs in the past three seasons. He led the Nippon Professional Baseball league with a single-season record 216 hits in 2015.

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"We scouted Shogo for several years in anticipation of his free agency," Reds President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams said in a statement. "We like his approach at the plate as well as his outfield defense, and we think he will complement our team very well."



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The left-handed hitter is a six-time Pacific League Gold Glove winner and hit .303 with 20 home runs in 2019. He will wear No. 4 in Cincinnati.

Akiyama initially agreed to sign with the Reds on Dec. 30, but needed to pass a physical to complete the deal.

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The Reds enter the 2020 season with a crowded outfield, including Akiyama, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino and Phillip Ervin.

Akiyama could become a solid leadoff option for Cincinnati if he can keep up his on-base percentage track record in Major League Baseball. The Reds ranked 12th in the National League in on-base percentage last season.

Reds pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb. 14 in Goodyear, Ariz., and position players report Feb. 17. The Reds have their first full workout Feb. 18.

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