Norichika Aoki reached the World Series last season with the Kansas City Royals, but his club lost to the San Francisco Giants in a thrilling seven game series.
It seems that Aoki must follow the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy, because today he reached an agreement on a one-year contract with San Francisco.
He’ll make $4 million in 2014, plus performance bonuses. The deal includes an option for 2016 with a $700,000 buyout; guaranteeing Aoki $4.7 million.
If he reaches all of the incentives and has his option picked up, this would be a two-year, $12.5 million deal in total.
Aoki, 33, won’t make up for any of the power that the Giants have lost this off-season, but he will still provide a solid presence both in the lineup and in the field.
He is a career .287/.353/.387 hitter with good speed on the bases and nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the big leagues.
In 2014, Aoki’s .285 batting average would have been third-best among all Giants players with 300 at-bats, his .349 OBP would have been second-best behind Buster Posey, and his 17 stolen bases would have led the entire team.
He’s not a slugger, but he’s no slouch either.
He also has the ability to play all three outfield positions, although he’s spent the bulk of his time in right field.
As you may have noticed during the World Series, his defense can be unconventional…
…but overall most defensive metrics rate him as above average in the outfield.
Aoki will take over in left field following the departure of free agent Mike Morse. The Giants can slot him at the top of the lineup, he’s a very traditional two-hole hitter, or – if that role is slated for second baseman Joe Panik – he can be a dynamic bottom of the order weapon.
In signing Aoki to a low-guarantee, one-year deal San Francisco is landing a serious bargain. The outfielder was projected by many to get a multi-year deal worth at least double the annual value of his current deal.
If he continues to produce at his previous levels, this is an absolute steal for the defending World Series champions.
On the other hand, if his production slips, they’ve got a stellar fourth outfielder at a very reasonable cost. No matter how it shakes out, it’s a win for the Giants.
As for Aoki, while he didn’t cash in as many had expected he would; he gets an everyday job with a legitimate World Series contender. At 33-years-old and with no power, that’s not too shabby.
It’s not the sexy signing that disgruntled Giants fans may have been waiting for as we near the end of a quiet off-season for the defending champs, but it’s a move that makes the team better than it was a day ago.
In what figures to be a very competitive division, that’s exactly what the Giants need.