Mariners Rumors: Should The M’s Re-sign Aoki Or Shop Around?
In the past few days, rumors have filled the air that the Mariners are interested in retaining Nori Aoki. The left-fielder has been on a hot streak this month, which has certainly helped his cause. But should the Mariners settle with Aoki? Or should they test the free agent market to see if they can upgrade at the position?
It is not yet time for the Mariners or Nori Aoki to make a decision of whether they should agree to stay together for another year. As per his contract, Aoki and the Mariners must mutually agree to want to be together to remain a Mariner.
There is also the potential, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reported a couple days ago, that Aoki could reach a plate appearance threshold of four hundred and eighty. Doing so would give him a player option as opposed to the mutual option.
Of course, (depending on his plate appearances) Aoki has the power to help or hurt his chances in the final thirteen games. But, will it be enough to be hot at the right time instead of consistently warm all year long?
Within the next few weeks there will be other players on the market who have arguably done
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Going into today’s game with the Blue Jays, let’s look at where he ranks compared to his counterparts.
Aoki is a standout out performer when you look at his statistics next to other left-fielders. Especially, the left-fielders who will be free agents next season.
Among those upcoming free agent left-fielders, he ranks first in on base percentage. He also tops the list for fewest strike outs. In other categories, while he may not be the alpha dog, he’s still sitting around the top.
Aoki is fourth on the base on balls rankings of the aforementioned men. Having said that though- and this relates to other statistical numbers as well- Aoki has played a handful of games fewer than those other major leaguers. Aoki is also third in doubles and second in batting average.
Searching For Answers
So, we see that his overall numbers not only hold their own against the competition, but stand out. However, most of the reason for this has been his unusually impressive second half.
Before the All-Sar break, Aoki was struggling with the Mariners. He was hitting forty points below his career average. He was also having career-worst power numbers, which, I might add, he still is. Aoki was even optioned to triple-A Tacoma because of it.
Sure, his turnaround has been incredible, but is it enough to sway GM Jerry Dipoto and his team to re-sign him? Dipoto has been very political and very upbeat in how he has addressed Aoki’s future with the team. He told Dutton:
"“He’s been awesome,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “I don’t think he was ever out of our plans (for 2017). When we sent him to Triple-A, we explained to him that we were going to let him play. And whatever happens, happens.”"
Yet, he was more cryptic with his words when he joined Mike Blowers and Dave Sims in the booth yesterday, saying:
"Nori has been a catalyst for the team since the 2nd half began. The presence at the top of the lineup is very much what we thought we were getting when the season began."
Call me a skeptic, but one of Dipoto’s responsibilities -especially when addressing the fan base- is to stay positive.
What To Expect
Don’t expect anything. Late September baseball is as unpredictable as it gets. Aoki could finish the year under the plate appearance threshold, leaving the decision to retain him up to the organization. Even if he does reach the mark, if the Mariners don’t make the playoffs, Aoki may choose to leave.
Next: Mariners: What We Learned
Because of all of this, the Mariners should not hesitate to look for replacements. With solid talent out there in the free agent market like Angel Pagan, the former Mariner, Michael Saunders, Ian Desmond and Jeff Francoeur, the M’s shouldn’t put all the eggs in the Aoki basket just yet.