Akiyama, 31, could fill the Cubs' holes at leadoff and in center field. The Cubs are one of four or five MLB teams with interest in Akiyama, according to sources. He's a free agent without any posting limitations, so he's free to sign with any team. He's a five-time All-Star in the NPB.
Akiyama has a career .376 on-base percentage in nine seasons for the Seibu Lions in the Nippon Professional Baseball, the highest level of play in Japan. That includes marks of .392 and .403 over the past two seasons.
Cubs leadoff hitters performed poorly in 2019, with the team posting a .212 batting average and .294 on-base percentage out of the top spot in the order. Both marks ranked last in MLB.
Importantly, Akiyama also projects to be affordable for the Cubs, who have financial limitations after surpassing the luxury tax threshold in 2019 and with more than $200 million projected on their payroll in 2020 already. Akiyama is seeking a three-year deal in the vicinity of $15 million, sources said.
If the Cubs were to add Akiyama, they could use Jason Heyward regularly in right field, where he's a perennial Gold Glove candidate. Akiyama is considered an above-average defender. Kyle Schwarber currently projects to start in left field.
Akiyama will be represented in the United Center by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management. Heyward is also an Excel client.