While I do not disagree with the business tactic of “get what you can at a great price”, I feel that Norichika Aoki is an indespensible part of the Milwaukee Brewers’ outfield. Of course, once his contract is over at the end of the 2014 season, he may walk, but until then the Brewers should keep him.
After all, Aoki is a piece that makes up one of the best outfields in the game at the moment.
There comes a point in time where a team has a clear difference between being a buyer and seller, but really this team doesn’t rank on either side. Even despite their down season, the Brewers really have nobody worth selling outside of Francisco Rodriguez and maybe Yovani Gallardo, so why trade someone if it’s not an absolute need? This is how the situation with Aoki feels, unnecessary.
Lately, although the rumors haven’t had much life in the past week, the Texas Rangers were interested in the 31 year-old for their outfield. Of course, with all the hoopla surrounding the Biogenesis links, such as the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz, it would make sense as to why they’d bite on a trade for Aoki.
In the same regards though, if the Brewers were to lose left fielder Ryan Braun for the exact same reason, then that would give them all the more reason not to trade Aoki. His value in the outfield, while not extremely public, has been sought after by many teams and Milwaukee should find themselves lucky that they were able to strike a deal with him before the 2012 season.
Aoki’s contract has him as a free-agent after the 2014 season, which by then the team can make a rational decision. If they believe guys like Khris Davis, Josh Prince, Caleb Gindl and perhaps Kentrail Davis, will be ready, then by all means let Aoki test the free-agent waters. Until then, it’s irrational to trade away a guy who can consistently get on base and has the ability to be a menace against opposing pitchers.
However, Aoki’s been pulling his weight this season despite the Brewers having one of the worst records in the MLB. While Aoki doesn’t have a lot of power, he’s a pure and deadly contact hitter as he is batting .294/.360/.370 and has speed to show with 10 stolen bases and 46 runs scored. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .302 this season absolutely shows how good he is with getting on base and the fact that he rarely strikes out, only 20 in 392 plate appearances this year, speaks a lot to his patience when batting.
Easy enough to say, the Brewers struck gold when they signed Aoki and he’s been rewarding them ever since. While it definitely seems possible they may let him walk after his contract ends, until then the team should keep him. He’s a great hitter, a decent fielder and just the lead-off guy that this team needs.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.