Why Nori Aoki Makes Perfect Sense for the Seattle Mariners


The Seattle Mariners still need a right fielder for 2015. The thought of moving Brad Miller to the outfield is unpredictable both offensively and defensively. And anyone who thinks James Jones or Stefen Romero will do the trick is, frankly, a little looney.

Most right fielders linked to the Mariners this offseason have been righties, as the M’s were seriously short on consistent right-handed hitting in 2014.

But with the addition of Nelson Cruz, who will DH, and could play some 1B and OF, the M’s aren’t nearly as desperate for a right-handed bat.

That’s why I think the Mariners could do well to go out and sign a certain slap-hitting, left-handed, Japanese right fielder. No, not Ichiro Suzuki, but former Kansas City Royal Nori Aoki.

Nori Aoki, 32, was an integral part of the Royals’ 2014 run to the World Series. He isn’t listed as a top 50 free agent on ESPN, and his name hasn’t been floated around by teams looking to make a big splash to improve their team. But for the Mariners, who are just a few pieces away from being AL favorites to make the World Series, Aoki could be that missing piece on a championship team.

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In 132 games last season with the Royals, Aoki hit .285/.349/.360 with 1 home run, 43 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases. Another big plus with the balls in play machine: 43 walks to only 49 strikeouts.

2014 was a bit of a power outage for Nori Aoki, as he hit 10 home runs and 8 home runs with the Brewers in 2012 and 2013, respectively. His career MLB numbers are the staple of consistency: .287/.353/.387 with a .740 OPS.

Defensively, Aoki takes very odd and meandering routes to the ball at times, but he is certainly fast enough to run balls down and hit the cutoff man in spacious Safeco Field. He had 5 assists last season in the outfield: nothing overwhelming but certainly better than the non-Michael Saunders contributors in 2014.

The Mariners would be able to get Nori Aoki on a deal that wouldn’t break the bank. I could see the team reeling him in with a 2 year, $15 million deal or a 3 year, $21 million deal.

He could be platooned in the outfield with Stefen Romero, James Jones, or even Nelson Cruz from time to time. His OBP-driven approach would get him on base and setting the table for Mariners hitters.

His market may move a little slower as the other free agent outfields, but it wouldn’t be shocker to see him signed somewhere by mid-January. Why not with Seattle?

What do you think? Would Nori Aoki be a good investment by the Mariners? Would he improve the team enough to make them legitimate contenders?