— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) December 1, 2015
Aoki spent last season with the San Francisco Giants before injuries ended his 2015 campaign. The Giants didn’t exercise the option they had on Aoki, making him a free agent.
So why would he fit the Mariners? The four-year MLB veteran can hit for a good average and get on base. Aoki holds a career slash line of .287/.353/.386 since coming over from Japan. In those seasons he has played with the Giants, Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals. If you like a steady hitter you have it in Aoki. He has never hit higher than .288 (in 2012) or lower than .285 (in 2014). He isn’t a power hitter — just 24 career home runs — but can make a difference with his legs. The best part of Aoki’s game is that he can hit lead-off. Just the type of hitter the M’s have needed for quite some time.
Aoki doesn’t play outstanding defense, but is passable in the outfield. The Royals took him out late in games, but that happens when you have several defensive superstars hanging around on your team. After playing primarily right field his first few seasons, he transitioned to left field last season. There is still a lot of time left in the offseason but with the current roster makeup of the M’s, Franklin Gutierrez could be the defensive replacement for Aoki, if need be.
A concussion ended the 2015 campaign for Aoki, but one would think those problems should be long gone by the start of 2016. He will turn 34 years old in January, so wherever he signs, it won’t be for a big multi-year contract. A one- or two-year deal would suit the M’s just fine.
Is Aoki the next piece to Jerry Dipoto‘s puzzle? Only time will tell, but he certainly seems to fit with the athletic mold of outfielder the new GM has been adding to the roster since taking over.