Astros Add Nori Aoki via Waivers From Mariners
By Eric Huysman
The Houston Astros have a new outfielder in Nori Aoki.
Jeff Luhnow did not wait too long after the World Series to make his first move. Nori Aoki joins the Houston Astros via waivers from the Mariners. While this may not be the splash you were expecting, this does fill a hole on the roster. With Carlos Gomez‘s release and Colby Rasmus impending free agency, they needed outfielders.
Aoki has been a relatively consistent .280 ish hitter over his career. He has played left field mostly throughout his career but has played all three at some point. Let’s say the Astros don’t make any more additions to the current roster. Aoki would be fighting Jake Marisnick, Teoscar Hernandez, and others for the other two outfield spots next to George Springer.
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Aoki joins Tony Kemp and Preston Tucker as the left-handed hitting outfield options this spring. One thing that he offers over the other guys is his experience. The 34-year-old former Japanese outfielder has five years of MLB experience with four different teams. After starting off with the Mariners, he has rotated through the Royals, Giants, and Mariners. Last season he signed a one-year deal with a vesting option for $6 million if he reached 480 plate appearances, via MLB Trade Rumors. Unfortunately, he only had 467 plate appearances, so the option does not vest.
2016 Stats: .283/ 4 homers/ 28 RBI/ 7 sb/ 45 strikeouts in 467 plate appearances.
No, he wouldn’t become a free agent with the option not vesting. Aoki will now go through the arbitration process with the Astros to decide how much his salary will be. As we know, Jason Castro‘s arbitration went in favor of the Astros this past offseason. We will have to see what happens between the team and a player they have never had on their team.
Luhnow released a statement that said Aoki is a great complimentary player to the Astros. While most of the team is a power swinging or strikeout type group, Aoki is the opposite. He is a contact and low strikeout hitter. He has shown some speed in the past, but that has evaporated a little as he has aged. Luhnow also added that Aoki offers a left-handed option to a very right-handed team.
As I wrote today, where Springer plays next year depends on the additions the Astros make this year. Whether Aoki is an everyday option is yet to be seen with the Astros. Marisnick has the inside track to the job, but his value is best as the fourth outfielder. Depending on who they bring in, this could mean that Tucker will start season in minors if healthy.
Next: Astros: Would George Springer move to center field?
Where will Aoki be in the batting order? He will either bat in the top two spots in the order or ninth. He is a get on base and uses his speed to get to second base and score type hitter. Aoki is a good table setter, but are the Astros committed to Springer leading off? This is not a game changer, but it could be an addition that pays off to getting to the postseason in 2017. This is step one, what’s next Jeff?
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***