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MLB Transaction Analysis: Shogo Akiyama, Travis Shaw, Rich Hill

Jan 3, 2020

Rich Hill has been excellent whenever he is healthy

Welcome to the year 2020. This is the point on the calendar where seamheads are looking back to assess the headlining moves that have already been made on the MLB Hot Stove over the past couple of months while simultaneously awaiting in anticipation for transactions regarding the much-coveted names still available on the market. 

All the while, many acquisitions are only minimally noticed or not at all by the common fan. That should rarely be the case for the avid fantasy baseball nut out there, but let’s be honest, it happens to everyone from time-to-time. The following are some potentially fantasy-relevant names that have recently found themselves donning new threads via deals that may have flown under the radar for many. 

Shogo Akiyama reaches agreement with Reds

Akiyama will be the next Japanese baseball star to head to the States. As of Monday, it has been announced that the Reds have come to terms on a three-year pact with the outfielder who will turn 32 years of age in mid-April. 

A pro in his native country since 2011, Akiyama has posted particularly impressive numbers over the past five seasons, combing for a .320/.398/.497 slash line while averaging 19 home runs and 16 steals. Durability should not be a concern, as he has gone to the plate a minimum of 659 times in every year of that stretch.

Despite a seemingly crowded outfield situation in Cincinnati, Akiyama may very well slot right into the top spot of the Reds batting order and man centerfield more often than not. If that turns out to be the case, there is possibly fantastic value to be had in any mixed league. 

It always remains to be seen how a given player’s tools will translate from overseas, but double-digit dingers and steals alongside a strong, .300-plus average is certainly a reasonable expectation for Akiyama. He should also be crossing the plate plenty of times considering some of the bats that could be behind him.

Great American Ballpark is a power-hitting haven, and that only adds to the potential for Akiyama. Could he turn out to be a 20-20 level contributor? That’s not out of the question, especially given the propensity for long balls in Cincinnati. 

Travis Shaw to look for rebound in Toronto

Shaw was a prime producer for the Brewers in both 2017 and 2018, blasting 63 homers with an .844 OPS and .239 ISO across those two seasons. Last year, saw a completely different story unfold, as he spent some time on the disabled list, took a demotion to the minors, saw his stats plummet, and his whiffs soar at the major-league level. 

When all was said and done for Shaw’s 2019 campaign, the offensive ledger showed a .157/.281/.270 slash line with just seven round-trippers and a career-high 33.0-percent strikeout rate. In a scenario that would have been almost unimaginable just a year earlier, the 29-year-old corner infielder was understandably non-tendered by the Brewers this past fall. 

Shaw officially joined the Blue Jays on a one-year deal just before ringing in 2020 and will likely receive every opportunity to be the everyday first baseman as he attempts to bounce back to his previous slugger form. Outside of AL-only leagues, it is advisable to take a wait-and-see approach on him doing that. If Shaw comes out of the gate hot, however, strike fast on the waiver wire for his services. 

Twins ink a pair of veteran hurlers for rotation

With the departures of both Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez in free agency, the Twins found themselves in need of plugging a couple of holes in the backend of their starting staff. They did just that with the announcement of two single-season signings on New Year’s Eve. 

First off, Rich Hill spent the last three-plus years with the Dodgers, routinely putting forth impressive efforts when he can actually get on the mound. Injuries have always been an issue for the aging southpaw, and the case was no different in 2019. 

During his age-39 season, Hill dominated the opposition to the tune of a 2.45 ERA, 11.0 K/9, and 4.0 K/BB, but those numbers came over only 58.2 innings (13 starts). If Hill appears healthy this spring, go ahead and snatch him up in virtually all mixed-league drafts. Just remember to temper expectations over the course of the full season due to his health history.

Joining Hill in Minnesota will be 33-year-old righty Homer Bailey. After battling a plethora of injuries of his own from 2015-18, Bailey returned to big-league usefulness for the first time in five years while spending time with the Royals and A’s last season. Most of that usefulness came in a Wild Card run during the second half after he was dealt to Oakland on July 14.

In 13 starts with the A’s, Bailey went 6-3 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Digging a little deeper into that time in Oakland, Bailey recorded numbers far better than his career norms with 1.8 BB/9 and 4.53 K/BB. He also put up a 10.8-percent swinging-strike rate for 2019. That was Bailey’s best mark by far since 2014, tying him with Jose Berrios for 31st among qualified MLB starters and placing him ahead of names such as Masahiro Tanaka, Zack Greinke, and Zack Wheeler. There could be the makings of a true sleeper here.

Nate Miller is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Nate, check out his archive and follow him @Miller_RotoDad.