In the midst of an injury riddled season, the Mets were in desperate need of an additional outfielder. Injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, paired with the trades of Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, left the team shorthanded. The Mets opted to sign Nori Aoki, a veteran outfielder who struggled to find a team to stay on this season. Prior to signing with the Mets, Aoki bounced from the Houston Astros to the Toronto Blue Jays before eventually landing in Queens. Thus far, he has produced well with the Mets, batting .333 through his first six games. He is seen by many as a stop gap player until next season, but is there a possibility there’s more than that for Aoki?
There are many uncertainties to the Mets outfield moving forward. Conforto is looking at a six month recovery time table, plus whatever additional time he needs to recover personally from his injury. Cespedes has constant hamstring issues, enough to limit him to 81 games this season. What harm would it do to have Aoki as a reserve outfielder? Lifetime, Aoki is a .285 hitter, which would fit nicely into any lineup. He has also played all three outfield positions, although he has spent the majority of his time in left and right field.
In fact, Aoki is a balanced player that the Mets didn’t have before he came. Aoki is a player that is solid defensively, that can also hit for average. In 2016, Aoki led all AL left fielders with a range factor of 1.92. This statistic basically states that even at age 34, Aoki covered his position well. If Aoki were to stay next season, he would be versatile anywhere in the outfield. That’s also reflective of his batting abilities, where he could be placed in many places in the lineup. The only place he wouldn’t fit in would be cleanup, which is known as a power hitting spot. He is a singles monster, even leading the National League in 2013 with 140.
A down side to having Aoki is his age. This season, he is 35 years old. When he starts over players like Brandon Nimmo, who is 11 years younger, it begs the question if his development is being harmed. At this point in the season, Aoki starts more over the likes of Travis Taijeron. Taijeron slugged in the minors, with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs in 125 games. Are the Mets hindering his development when they are nearly 20 games under .500? In the long run, playing Aoki isn’t helping the Mets much. If anything, he is just taking up space in the outfield.
Aoki is a veteran outfielder that will play a lot of games for a team. He doesn’t get hurt very often. In only one of his MLB seasons has he played under 100 games. For that reason alone, he is a valuable resource to the Mets roster. Add to the fact that he is a lifetime .285 hitter, and there is no reason that the Mets shouldn’t have him as an asset. He is a valuable fielder, and he hits for average very well. Whether he is here for short or long term, the addition of Nori Aoki was a smart one.