At least three teams still vying for Norichika Aoki
While other lower-tier free agent outfielders, like Nick Markakis and Alex Rios, have already come off the board, Aoki remains available, with multiple clubs hoping to bring him in. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman says the Mariners, Orioles, and Reds are “among possibilities” for the left-handed hitter entering his fourth year in the United States.
Aoki, who turns 33 on January 5th, was something of an outlier on a Royals roster replete with tremendous defensive outfielders. He turned in his fair share of highlight-reel catches, but many of them were the result of circuitous routes and misreads, although UZR (+5.9) liked his defense considerably more than FRAA (-7.7) and DRS (-7).
Furthermore, a move away from the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park and to the much vaster Kauffman Stadium virtually erased Aoki’s over-the-fence power. He slugged 10 homers in his “rookie” year and eight more in 2013, before leaving Milwaukee in a trade for Will Smith and going yard just once in Royal blue. Instead, Aoki peppered the gaps for 22 doubles and six triples, doubling his output in the latter category from the previous year. The sum of his offensive contributions (.267 TAv) was just a shade lower than it was in 2013 (.269).
Thus, what you think of Aoki now depends on how you rate his defense. He was a 1.0 WARP and 1.0 rWAR player, but fWAR boosted him to 2.3. Contract expectations seem more in line with the bearish metrics, as Heyman sees Aoki getting a two or three year pact that pays him $7 million-$8 million annually.
On the other hand, if Aoki is already just a one-win player and trending in the wrong direction as he wades deeper into his 30s, then even a two-year, $14 million deal would carry little upside and some risk for the team. That might explain why Aoki appears to have multiple suitors, yet none of them have sealed the deal.
Want a big-name Rockie?
Then, according to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, you’re going to have to send Colorado some arms.
Even the biggest of the big names—Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki—are up for discussion, per Morosi’s Thursday tweet, though the Rox would be warranted in asking for high-level pitchers in exchange. Both are signed well past 2015, unlike first baseman Justin Morneau, who drew interest from the Marlins earlier this offseason, before Miami signed Michael Morse to avoid sacrificing the controllable pitchers new Rockies GM Jeff Bridich had sought.
To the extent that pitching surplus is an indicator of trade match in this case, the Mets would seem to be the logical partner. Shortstop need further bolsters the argument that Bridich and his Queens counterpart Sandy Alderson should be locked in a room together until a swap materializes. But time that’s passed without a completed deal suggests that there are more bridges to cross—whether they’re Tulowitzki’s injury history, the arms Bridich hopes to pry, or other issues standing in the way of what seems like an obvious move for both sides.
Red Sox working to move Allen Craig
More from Morosi: Teams looking for a first baseman who can play a corner-outfield while only occasionally making a fool of himself could find a trade partner in the Red Sox. Allen Craig, coming off a season ravaged by a foot injury, is a bounce-back candidate available at what’s likely to be a bargain price.
From a player return standpoint, that is.
The Cardinals and Red Sox had the pleasure of paying Craig $2.75 million in 2014 to be two wins below replacement level. If the Lisfranc fracture wasn’t responsible for his demise, whichever team acquires him will be on the hook for $5.5 million in 2015, then $9 million in 2016, then $11 million in 2017, and then another $1 million in 2018 (presuming it declines the $13 million club option for 2018). Unless Craig rebounds, that’s $26.5 million in sunk costs.
Which is why GM Ben Cherington probably won’t ask for much in return.
At least one team is “actively” engaged in negotiations with the Red Sox, Morosi’s sources say, but its identity is unknown. Some possibilities:
- Beat writer Bob Dutton acknowledged the possibility that it’s the Mariners, with the caveat that he’s heard nothing to suggest they’re interested.
- Speculatively, the Giants—seeking corner bats after Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse left San Francisco—might be interested, particularly since they don’t have the prospects to pry higher-end assets, though they haven’t been tied to the Cal product either.
- ESPN’s Jayson Stark hinted that Craig could be a Plan C option for the Orioles, but that was 10 days ago, and they haven’t been tied to him since.
The Marlins were in play on Craig, but they signed Morse to a two-year, $16 million hitch. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe confirmed the obvious: Craig won’t be taking his talents to South Beach.
Kenta Maeda won’t be coming to the U.S. for 2015
Teams that have been hoping that the Japanese right-hander might join their rotations had better sort out their backup plans. Jim Allen of the Kyodo News says Maeda will stay with the Hiroshima Carp for at least one more year, after the club decided against posting the 26-year-old for bidding by stateside squads.
Rumors about Maeda’s desire to cross the Pacific date back to last offseason, when Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote that he might join Masahiro Tanaka in the 2014 class of imports. Now, it looks like Maeda will be at least two years behind his countryman—and if the Carp stick to their guns, he might not see the majors until 2018.
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