In the end, Aoki is a perfect fit for what the Nationals need. He’s been a consummate “leadoff guy” his entire career. As a free agent coming off an injury, he could be had for a fraction of the cost – in dollars and talent – of what it would take to snag Gardner.
As far as positioning the defense, the shuffling could go as follows.
The Nationals have Harper, Werth and Taylor. Aoki immediately becomes a starter, I’d guess in center, and Taylor then becomes a high-upside fourth outfielder capable of spelling any of them when necessary. Aoki might not be the world’s best defensive centerfielder, but he would be getting paid to get on base and get runs across the plate, things he has always done well.
Aoki, Rendon, Harper, and Werth would give Washington four “leadoff guys” in a row:
- They strike out and walk in favorable proportions;
- They have both on-base skills and (Aoki aside) power;
- They’re good or great base-stealers;
- And they set up in a nice, balanced lefty-righty-lefty-righty.
No team, not even the Mets with their all-universe pitching staff, would relish having to wade through this sequence of hitters.