Norichika Aoki Rumors

Brewers To Retain Aoki; Trade Talks Quiet

3:12pm: Gallardo left today's start early due to an injury, limping off the mound.  The Brewers described the injury as left hamstring tightness.

11:09am: "We're not going to move him," Brewers GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in regard to affordable right fielder Norichika Aoki.  Melvin noted that most of the players being traded are in their contract years; Aoki has a $1.5MM club option for 2014.

Melvin also told Haudricout he's not motivated to move Kyle Lohse, nor is he engaged in trade talks about today's starter, Yovani Gallardo.  Melvin isn't in active talks for any of his relievers, either, including Mike Gonzalez.  "Teams have to make offers," said Melvin who did acknowledge having one offer on the table for a pitcher, which he does not expect to lead to a deal.


Rangers Expressed Interest In Aoki

The Rangers have expressed interest in Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki during talks with the Brewers about starter Yovani Gallardo, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Aoki has a cheap $1.5MM club option for 2014, so it's unclear whether the Brewers will move him.

Aoki, 31, joined the Brewers in January 2012 after they won the rights to negotiate with him from Japan's Yakult Swallows for $2.5MM.  This year he's hitting .298/.366/.378 in 379 plate appearances, trading power for a slightly higher OBP as opposed to last year.  He's an underpaid high-contact player who can handle all three outfield positions.

Gallardo, meanwhile, takes on another team that covets him in the Diamondbacks tonight.  Some scouts see Gallardo as a No. 4 starter in the American League, maybe a 3 in the NL, writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  The Rangers recently lost ace Yu Darvish to the DL for a strained trapezius muscle, which is currently considered a minor issue.


Aoki Can Become Free Agent After 2014

When the Brewers signed Norichika Aoki to a two-year deal with a club option for 2014 prior to the 2012 season, the belief around baseball was that Aoki would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player following completion of that contract. That belief has held until today, but MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports that Aoki's contract contains language that allows him to become a free agent upon the expiration of his current deal.

McCalvy confirmed the information with Aoki's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, as well as Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash. There had already been speculation that the Brewers could listen to trade offers on Aoki, but knowing that his proximity to free agency is three years closer than most realized, it's likely that GM Doug Melvin is more open to dealing Aoki than previously thought.

The Brewers won negotiation rights with Aoki by submitting a $2.5MM posting fee, and they signed him to a heavily incentivized two-year, $2.5MM contract with a club option for 2014. The club option is for a mere $1.5MM, so it will absolutely be exercised by the Brewers or an acquiring team, barring a catastrophic injury.

Aoki is a .287/.357/.410 hitter with 14 homers and 39 stolen bases in 227 Major League games. A three-time batting champion in Japan, the 31-year-old has transitioned his game to the Major Leagues beautifully. Fangraphs values his MLB production to date at 3.2 wins above replacement, though that's been weighed down by some poor baserunning in 2013 (Aoki has been caught stealing in eight of his 17 attempts). Aoki's overall production and incredibly reasonable price tag should make him a tantalizing trade chip for teams in need of outfield help, should the Brewers choose to deal him.

Aoki's name can be added to a free agent class of right fielders that contains the likes of Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Nate Schierholtz and possibly Nick Markakis and Alex Rios, depending how their option situations play out. You can see the entire list of 2015 MLB free agents here.



AL East Notes: Yankees, Hanley, Orioles

Alex Rodriguez broke his hand last night, when he was hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez in Seattle. The injury is expected to sideline Rodriguez for six to eight weeks, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Not surprisingly, the news will affect the Yankees' summer shopping list. Here are the latest notes from the AL East…

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he’ll engage the market for a third baseman, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.  The Yankees will consider all third base options, including Chase Headley of the Padres, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports (on Twitter). It seems unlikely that the Yankees would meet the Padres' asking price for Headley, Heyman writes (on Twitter).
  • The Red Sox asked the Marlins about Hanley Ramirez before last night’s trade, but Boston’s interest was in acquiring the infielder and flipping him to a third team, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. It sounds as though the Red Sox were going to flip Ramirez to either the A’s or the Dodgers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter).
  • The Orioles announced that they signed 25-year-old Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia to a minor league contract. The Orioles will assign the 6’5”, 195-pound switch-hitter to Double-A Bowie. Urrutia did not play in 2011 following an unsuccessful attempt at defection, according to the Orioles. He established residency in Haiti after successfully defecting from Cuba.

Brewers Sign Norichika Aoki

FRIDAY: Aoki is guaranteed to make $2.5MM in the first two years with Milwaukee, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  With incentives and bonuses, Aoki can make a a little over $8.6MM over three years.

THURSDAY: Aoki will earn $1MM in 2012 and $1.25MM in 2013, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. The deal includes lots of incentives.

TUESDAY: The Brewers announced that they signed outfielder Norichika Aoki to a two-year deal that includes a club option for 2014. Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Brewers and the three-time NPB batting champion were finalizing an agreement.

The Brewers won the rights to negotiate with Aoki with a $2.5MM bid in December. The 30-year-old outfielder hit .292/.358/.360 for the Yakult Swallows last year and would assume a bench role for Milwaukee.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.


Brewers Close To Multiyear Deal With Aoki

The Brewers are "just finalizing things" on a multiyear deal with Norichika Aoki, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  Earlier, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy wrote of a consensus at Miller Park that a deal gets done before today's 4pm central time deadline.

The Brewers won the rights to negotiate with Aoki with a $2.5MM bid in December.  The 30-year-old outfielder hit .292/.358/.360 for the Yakult Swallows last year and would assume a bench role for Milwaukee.


NL Central Notes: Pujols, Beltran, Cubs, Aoki

The Reds signed a catcher today and the Pirates avoided arbitration with a pair of pitchers. Here are some more notes from the NL Central…

  • Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said this weekend that his team must stay within certain financial limitations to put a competitive team on the field year after year, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Cardinals would have liked to retain Albert Pujols, but keeping him wasn’t necessarily realistic. “It's how much can I afford to pay one player and put together a team that's going to be competitive? That's the whole jigsaw puzzle that all teams have,” DeWitt said.
  • Carlos Beltran said the Indians, Rays and Giants were among the finalists for his services this offseason, MLB.com's Matthew Leach reports. Beltran said another team offered a three-year deal worth less money, B.J. Rains of FOXSportsMidwest.com tweets.
  • Cubs director of scouting and player development Jason McLeod said he's looking forward to meeting with his scouts this week to find ways of drafting more effectively under the new collective bargaining agreement, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.
  • Tom Haudricourt on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that there's an expectation that the Brewers will sign outfielder Norichika Aoki. They have until 4pm CDT tomorrow to sign Aoki, or else he’ll be returned to the Yakult Swallows and the Brewers will get their $2.5MM posting fee back.

Brewers Exchange Proposals With Aoki’s Agent

Brewers GM Doug Melvin says that he has exchanged proposals with Norichika Aoki's agent but isn't sure how it will go, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  Melvin added that the club is looking at other outfield options.

Aoki worked out for the Brewers on Sunday for a little over an hour with Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke, and owner Mark Attanasio present.  The Brewers have until 4pm central time on Tuesday to sign Aoki.  If they do not reach agreement with the outfielder, the Yakult Swallows must refund the $2.5MM posting fee.  The 30-year-old hit .292/.358/.360 for the Swallows in 2011.


Latest On Norichika Aoki

Norichika Aoki's workout for the Brewers yesterday in Phoenix lasted 75 minutes, reports Nikkan Sports as translated by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman.  GM Doug Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke, and owner Mark Attanasio were among those present, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  "It was a good workout. He's probably the kind of player you'd expect, coming from Japan," said Melvin.

The Brewers have until 4pm central time on January 17th to sign Aoki, or else the Yakult Swallows must refund the $2.5MM posting fee.  The Brewers are still deciding whether to make an offer.  The Brewers conducted a physical exam for Aoki this morning to buy themselves some time, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.

Aoki, a 30-year-old outfielder, hit .292/.358/.360 for the Swallows this year and would assume a bench role for Milwaukee.


Brewers Work Out Aoki

Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki has completed a workout for the Brewers, according to Nikkan Sports via Patrick Newman's NPB Tracker.

The Brewers won the right to negotiate with Aoki after placing a high bid of $2.5MM through the posting system. The bid was accepted by the Yakult Swallows, Aoki's club in NPB, and the Brewers have till Jan. 17 to sign Aoki, according to Newman, or else he'll return to the Swallows.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke were among eight representatives in attendance for the 75-minute workout, which reportedly included catch, long toss, batting practice and base running.

Aoki has been a star in Japan, posting a robust .336/.411/.472 line in seven seasons. The Brewers, however, may have a bench role in mind for the outfielder, as we learned last month that they began contract negotiations in the $1-1.5MM range.