CINCINNATI — Shogo Akiyama knew the Cincinnati Reds were the only Major League Baseball team that never had a player born in Japan. The chance to break a barrier was part of his impetus to sign.
Akiyama got a $21 million, three-year deal this week with the Reds. They introduced him Wednesday at Great American Ball Park, where the five-time Japanese All-Star figures to play one of the outfield spots and bat high in the order.
“The fact that they’ve never had a Japanese player was something that was very attractive, and their presentation was impressive,” said Akiyama, 31, through translator Roger Kahlon. “It made me want to play here.”
The Reds scouted the outfielder for the past few seasons in Japan’s Pacific League and made the biggest push to sign him when he became a free agent, which also made an impression.
“We were the first team to approach him, the first to give him scouting materials, the first team he met with at the winter meetings and the first to offer him a contract,” said Dick Williams, the Reds’ president of baseball operations.
The deal includes salaries of $6 million this year, $7 million in 2021 and $8 million in 2022. If traded, Akiyama would get a $1 million…