Mariners News: Seattle Reportedly Interested in Nori Aoki


The Seattle Mariners are reportedly considering signing free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

The Seattle Mariners have not been shy about making moves this offseason, and it appears Jerry Dipoto has a new target. Bob Dutton of The News Tribune is reporting that Seattle is “showing interest” in free agent outfielder, Nori Aoki.

After starring for eight seasons with the Yakult Swallows of the Japan Central League, Aoki signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012. Aoki wasted little time making an impact in the big leagues, hitting .288 with 10 home runs, 55 RBI and 30 stolen bases as a rookie. He posted a .355 on base percentage and slugged .433 across 588 plate appearances.

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Aoki followed up his impressive debut with another solid season for the Brew Crew. He hit .286 with 8 home runs, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases through 155 games. Aoki registered a .356 on base percentage and slugged .370 in 674 plate appearances. It was hard to beat his strikeout to walk ratio in 2013, as Aoki struck out just 40 times and worked 55 free passes.

Milwaukee opted to cash in on Aoki’s strong season, and shipped him to the Kansas City Royals for reliever Will Smith. Nori did his thing for the Royals, posting a .285 batting average with 1 home run, 43 RBI and 17 stolen bases across 132 games. His drop in power was disturbing, but he still registered a .349 on base percentage.

Aoki’s free agent market was slow to develop last offseason, and he ended up signing a short-term deal with the San Francisco Giants. 2015 was an injury plagued season for the 33-year-old, but he still managed to post impressive numbers at the plate. Aoki hit .287 with 5 home runs, 26 RBI and 14 stolen bases through 93 games. He did a great job of getting on base, registering a .353 OBP across 392 plate appearances.

Defensively, Aoki is nothing more than an average outfielder. He was a quality right fielder for the Brewers, but he struggled in the same capacity with the Royals. The Giants utilized him in left field last season, although that likely had more to do with Hunter Pence than it did with Aoki. The veteran has posted a .991 fielding percentage and has contributed 26 outfield assists through his first four seasons.

Aoki is one of the most consistent players in baseball, and his projections for 2016 are very positive. Baseball Reference is predicting the Hyunga, JP product will hit .277 with 5 home runs, 33 RBI and 12 stolen bases next season. The experts at FanGraphs expect Aoki to post a .275 batting average with 6 home runs, 39 RBI and 15 stolen bases.

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The Mariners seem to have a “type,” and Nori Aoki would appear to fit what Jerry Dipoto is looking for. Seattle is hoping to infuse their lineup with more athletic players who consistently get on base. Aoki has stolen 81 bases and sports a .353 on base percentage over his first four seasons in the big leagues.

Aoki would look great hitting in front of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. However, there are a few questions regarding his health. Aoki missed a month this past season dealing with a fracture in his right fibula. Then in August, he took a Jake Arrieta pitch to the head and suffered a concussion. Aoki attempted to play through it, but was forced to miss the final few weeks with post-concussion issues. No doubt his injury problems led to the Giants declining their 2016 team option.

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When healthy, Nori Aoki is a force at the top of the lineup. His on base skills would be a huge asset in the Emerald City, and he is likely to be an inexpensive pickup. He would also be an improvement in left or right field for the M’s next season.