The Mets are in the market for an outfielder, and there are solutions out there on the trade market, and in free agency. With some big name players in free agency, such as Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Michael Cuddyer, it is easy to overlook Norichika Aoki, the player we may need.
The 32-year-old outfielder has played in the major leagues for three years and has done well. His average has finished above .280 and his OBP has hovered around .350. For a team that finished 28th in batting average, Aoki’s .280 average would definitely be welcomed. His OBP would have placed second on the Mets if he were on the team this year, and he finished with a 1.0 WAR in 132 games.
Although fans will argue that Juan Lagares is the leadoff man going into the next season, his OBP would need to rise a bit to fit into the spot. Aoki can take care of the leadoff spot, and has experience in all three outfield spots, although he has played a majority of games in right field. Even if the Mets wanted Lagares in the leadoff spot, Aoki could bat second, and help manufacture runs by putting the ball in play and advancing the runner.
With Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and David Wright in the lineup, there are bound to be a lot of strikeouts, as all three players struck out more than 100 times this season. Aoki helps counter those players by putting the ball in play, as he struck out 49 times in 491 at-bats. If the lineup wanted more power, Aoki would not fit into that category, as he only homered once, and his slugging percentage was close to Eric Campbell’s, which hovered around .360.
This season, Aoki suffered from a groin injury and missed some of the season. He still appeared in 132 games, and is currently playing in the playoffs. The veteran’s postseason experience will come in handy when the Mets begin to compete for a wildcard spot, as Aoki has that experience.
With the Mets outfield defense being pretty solid, Aoki’s addition would be more welcomed than Cruz or Cuddyer. Aoki’s defense was less than average last season as he had -8 defensive runs saved rating, which is much lower than the average. This low rating may be because of his groin injury, because in his defensive runs saved rating was 13 in 2013. Hopefully with Granderson and Lagares in the outfield, the Mets could survive with Aoki playing right.
The Mets may not have much money to spend this offseason, as the team will be paying more money to those players receiving arbitration. Cruz and Cuddyer will most likely get big contracts, while Cabrera has been in contract talks with the Blue Jays. Aoki should not cost too much this offseason, and would be a nice third or fourth outfielder. Since he is only 32, a multiyear deal should be considered. With a multiyear offer, the Mets may have enough money to improve another position on the team.