Shogo Akiyama won’t make Reds roster; Aramis Garcia teams up

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Outfielder Shogo Akiyama, the first Japanese player in Reds history, has been told he won’t be part of the club’s 2022 Opening Day roster.

Akiyama, who is in the final season of a three-year, $21 million contract, can accept an option on Triple-A Louisville. He can also elect free will if not claimed on waivers. Any team that claims Akiyama is responsible for his $8 million contract for the 2022 season.

“We thought we had better options in the outfield,” Cincinnati general manager Nick Krall said Sunday. “We liked the guys who played there. With [Jake] Fraley and [Tyler] Naquin, we felt another left-handed bat was redundant.

Signed before the start of the 2020 season, Akiyama came to the United States after a successful nine-year run with the Seibu Lions in Japan. While the pandemic altered the Reds’ plans in Akiyama’s first season, he never quite found his footing, delivering a .224/.320/.274 slant line in 142 games with Cincinnati.

“It’s been a rough road from the start,” said Reds manager David Bell. “He just hasn’t had a ton of chances to play. We know he can play this game.”

“It wasn’t like I was caught off guard or [it was] anything unpredictable,” Akiyama said of the decision. “I know in the major leagues here it can happen at any time.”

Akiyama played in seven Cactus League games this spring and went 4 for 22 with no extra hits and six strikeouts. With Akiyama not part of the club, Aristides Aquino’s chances of breaking camp with the Reds as an extra outfielder have increased.

As Akiyama reflected on his tenure at the Reds, two moments in particular stood out.

“That first at bat. I know there were no fans there, but you know, getting that shot, getting that RBI – I felt like I was welcome in the dugout, I felt like to be part of this team and this family,” Akiyama said. ” Also that [press conference] when I joined the team, I remember it. But it’s just a shame that I don’t have so many memorable moments.

While the Reds brass hoped Akiyama would accept a Triple-A assignment, they collectively understood that he would do what was best for him and his family. Krall said the club considered sending Akiyama to Louisville last season to give him more appearances, but his reps weren’t interested.

“I loved having him here; a great person,” Krall said of Akiyama. “I really enjoyed all his time here.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he landed somewhere and had the opportunity to help a Major League team win,” Bell said.

Garcia lands backup catcher job
All that prodigious power that Aramis Garcia displayed while playing Cactus League doesn’t seem to have been wasted. With the caveat that anything can still happen, Garcia is on track to make the opening day roster with the announcement on Sunday that Andrew Knapp would not be part of the club. The two were in competition throughout camp to serve as Tyler Stephenson’s backup.

“He won the job, basically,” Bell said. “He won an opportunity to be in this team. We knew Aramis was coming into the camp – a lot of coaches knew who he was as a player, who he was as a person, and he came and showed it all.

“Aramis came and competed and won the job.”

Bell mentioned the Reds won’t have designated pitcher-receiver combos to start 2022, like how Wade Miley and Tucker Barnhart grew to work together throughout 21.

Garcia played 32 games last season with the A’s and cut .205/.239/.318. He has nine homers in 193 career big league at-bats, but the 29-year-old’s playing time has been sporadic at best.

“He’s done that before, he’s been around the game,” Bell said. “He is still young in many ways, but he has experience. It’s better than its reputation and it just keeps getting better.