Sorry Andy Williams, but Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year; MLB Hot Stove season holds that title among baseball freaks.
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It’s that time of the year when there are more rumors than a middle school lunch room, and a constant flurry of reports and analysis are enough to make a human cranium implode.
The Detroit Tigers find themselves in an odd position with their outfield. Austin Jackson’s departure has left a void in center field, it’s uncertain whether Torii Hunter is staying or leaving, is Steven Moya ready for a roster spot, and is Ezequiel Carerra really an everyday guy the Tigers can rely on.
It’s somewhat of a mess in the Detroit outfield, and Nori Aoki happens to have a mop. Aoki, 32, fits the bill for two of Detroit’s major needs, a left-handed hitter and upgraded outfield defense.
What’s Aoki capable of?
2014 Stats: .285 BA, .710 OPS, 1 HR, 43 RBI, 17 SB
Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated named the Tigers the best fit for Aoki, having this to say:
"In 2014 Aoki had “good contact skills (just 49 strikeouts), good speed and strong outfield defense. The Tigers’ outfielders, as a group, were among the league’s worst fielding units, and they could generally stand to get a bit more athletic.”"
It would be much more enticing to sign Aoki if he could play CF but he is predominately a corner outfielder. Which may ultimately be a good thing considering Torii Hunter is rumored to leave Detroit amid a flurry of interest. On November 8th, Jon Heyman reported that at least seven teams are interested in Hunter (which blows my mind):
Though he’s no superstar RF, he has above average defensive abilities, though the range is not really there. Also, he has recorded 22 career outfield assists in his three MLB seasons (courtesy of Rob Rogacki). It’d be a blessing if Aoki was capable of playing CF but watching him play says he isn’t.
Now for what everybody is concerned about, can Aoki hit? First and foremost, Aoki is not a power hitter. With only 19 HR in his three major league seasons, he is labeled as a contact hitter whose sole job is to get on base. And he performs very well in those departments with OPB’s of .355, .356. and .349 in his career.
Despite everyone loving home runs, there’s nothing wrong with being a contact hitter. But in Aoki’s case, that’s just about all he is. Out of his 140 hits in 2014, only 29 were for extra bases.
Should the Tigers sign Aoki?
It is in my personal opinion that the Tigers should sign Nori Aoki. His defense is nothing to praise, but it’s better than what the club currently has. The Tigers outfield is among the league’s worst. I don’t care if we have to throw a glove and cap on Mike Illitch himself, just get somebody out there other than what the team already has. He gets on base, which is how baseball games are essentially won, and he will likely come cheaper than most. I would expect Aoki to make 5-7 million a year, and at least a three year contract. One and two year deals won’t be enough to reel him in. Other players such as Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus will most certainly fetch much larger contracts than Aoki. The team doesn’t need to sign big name guy, just a man that is fully capable of playing above average baseball.