Whichever team signs Norichika Aoki this offseason wont be making a huge splash that will garner many front page headlines, but they will be getting just about as consistent a hitter you can find on the market this offseason. Aoki will also not cost his new club any type of draft pick compensation.
The Milwaukee Brewers signed the 32-year-old left-handed hitter out of Japan back in 2012. His batting averages and on-base percentages have been nearly identical in all three of his major league seasons. In Aoki's rookie season he hit .288 with a .355 OBP, in 2013 he hit .286 with a .356 OBP, and last season he hit .285 with a .349 OBP. This type of consistency at the plate is difficult to accomplish year in and year out, and it adds up to a respectable career batting line of .287/.353/.387 with a slightly above league average wRC+ of 106.
Aoki will turn 33 years old in January and his play does not come without some concerns. He was able to contribute moderately in the power department in his first two seasons with the Brewers by hitting 10 home runs in 2012 followed by eight in 2013. The Brewers then traded Aoki to the Kansas City Royals last offseason where he served as the teams primary leadoff hitter in 2014, but Aoki hit just one ball over the fence in 132 games as a Royal.
Corner outfielders are generally among the best power hitters on a team. Aoki does not fit that mold and he wasn't all that effective a base stealer or defender in 2014 either, which makes it even more difficult to justify giving him a multi-year contract. He stole 30 bases in 2012, but has seen that number drop to 20 in 2013 to just 17 swipes in 2014, while getting caught an alarming eight times.
Aoki played right field for the Royals and managed a 5.9 Ultimate Zone Rating which ranked 15th best among all outfielders according to FanGraphs. Despite a promising UZR, Aoki had a very poor Defensive Runs Saved rating of -8 in 2014. Royals Manager Ned Yost also chose to use Jarrod Dyson as a defensive replacement for Aoki several times late in games this past postseason after Aoki committed some crucial miscues in the outfield.
Aoki is rumored to be seeking a three-year contract and FanGraphs projects he will settle for a 2-year, $14 million deal. The Mets may still be interested in signing an outfielder this offseason who can play in a pinch when Lucas Duda sits against tough lefties with Michael Cuddyer shifting to first base, but Aoki will be far too expensive to be brought in as a fourth outfielder in this scenario.
He wont be a Met in 2015, but the team likely was considering Aoki as a backup plan should they strike out on signing Cuddyer. The Mets want more power production out of their outfield in 2015, so while Aoki would have saved the Mets their 2015 draft pick and provided better outfield defense, the club deemed Cuddyer to be the better fit for their lineup and more worthy of a deal.