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Norichika Aoki

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  • Norichika Aoki

    The Brewers have won the battle for the right to negotiate with Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki. From's John Schlegel:

    The Brewers reportedly submitted a winning $2.5 million bid to negotiate with Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki, a three-time Central League batting champion with the Yakult Swallows.

    According to a tweet by Yasuko Yanagita of Hochi Shimbun, the Swallows announced that they accepted the Brewers' bid for Aoki. The Brewers now have negotiating rights for Aoki for the next 30 days.

    The Brewers have not commented on the report or confirmed their status in the Aoki posting.

    The 5-foot-10, 170-pound left-handed hitter slipped to a .292 average and four homers in 2011, after going for career highs of a .358 average and 209 hits in 2010. He was the 2005 Central League Rookie of the Year, batting .344 in his first full season.

    Aoki will turn 30 on Jan. 5, and could join a Brewers outfield that includes Ryan Bruan, Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez. Braun is appealing a possible 50-game suspension for a reported positive drug test, but general manager Doug Melvin said the Brewers are "counting on Ryan being in the lineup."

  • #2
    A contact hitting centre fielder with above average range. Should start the year at his natural position, centre field, when Morgan or Gomez are covering left for Braun.
    RIP - HGF [1937-2009]


    • #3
      Originally posted by brewcrew82 View Post
      A contact hitting centre fielder with above average range. Should start the year at his natural position, centre field, when Morgan or Gomez are covering left for Braun.
      If the Brewers and him can come through with a deal, of course. But, I guess it will happen considering Aoki's stats. I just remember last year the A's couldn't sign Hisashi Iwakuma after winning the posting bidding.


      • #4
        Well yeah, assuming he'd be happy playing in the mid-west and not for a larger market.

        I'm hoping because he seems he could be a much better everyday fit than either Morgan or Gomez.
        RIP - HGF [1937-2009]


        • #5
          The Brewers have signed Aoki.


          MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers finished their 2012 outfield and filled their 40-man roster Tuesday by importing three-time Japanese batting champion Norichika Aoki on a two-year contract with a club option for 2014.

          The sides had until 4 p.m. CT to strike a deal, or Aoki would have returned to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Now, he projects to join Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez in the Brewers' outfield and represents insurance against a possible early-season suspension for Braun.

          General manager Doug Melvin said club officials would get a better read on Aoki in Spring Training before settling his role.

          "He never asked about [playing time], he's just confident that he can come over and show us his skill set," Melvin said. "He wants the challenge of playing here in Major League Baseball. He's met a lot of challenges in Japan. He's won batting titles, he's won Gold Gloves, he's been an All-Star. You have to talk to him, but I think he [likes] the challenges of coming over here."

          The Brewers paid a $2.5 million posting fee to the Swallows for the right to negotiate with Aoki and preferred a multiyear deal laden with incentives, Melvin said. The contract, struck by Melvin and agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, is expected to be finalized Wednesday.

          Aoki, 30 and a left-handed hitter, has played his entire professional career with Yakult. According to statistics provided by the Brewers, he's batted .329 over parts of eight seasons with 84 home runs, 385 RBIs and 164 stolen bases in 985 games. He batted better than .300 in six of his seven full seasons and was Central League batting champion in 2005 (.344), 2007 (.346) and 2010 (.358). He was the 2005 Central League Rookie of the Year and a six-time Golden Glove Award winner and represented Japan in both World Baseball Classics. The Brewers had a favorable report from their scout at the 2009 event.

          The signing came a little more than a week after Aoki worked out for Brewers officials at Maryvale Baseball Park, which club officials described not as a tryout but an opportunity to see the player in person for the first time. The Brewers do not employ a scout in Japan and made their bid based on video of his games and to a lesser degree the team's solid working relationship with Balelo, who also happens to represent Braun.

          Melvin, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, manager Ron Roenicke and coaches Jerry and Johnny Narron were among the club's contingent at Aoki's workout. He took batting practice and participated in running and throwing drills.

          Melvin's decision-making team included director of pro scouting Zack Minasian and special assistant Dick Groch, both of whom attended the workout. Aoki underwent a physical exam the next day.

          Aoki is the only position player this winter to sign with a Major League team via the posting system. Last year, the Twins signed shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a three-year, $9 million contract after paying a posting fee that topped $5 million. Nishioka's rookie season was ruined by an injury.

          With Aoki, the Brewers may have the depth to try right fielder Hart at first base. Melvin said he'd instructed Roenicke to contact Hart with the idea of playing a limited number of games at that position, which for now appears to belong to longtime prospect Mat Gamel. Hart bats right-handed and Gamel is a lefty.

          "Probably not on a regular basis, but [Hart] could fill in a few games here and there," Melvin said. "He played [first] in the Minor Leagues. I don't necessarily consider it being where he's playing there a lot, but if Corey feels comfortable doing it, it's something we would take a look at in Spring Training. I want to make sure Corey feels comfortable about doing it, too, because if he doesn't, I'm not going to force the issue on him."

          The Brewers are hoping to introduce Aoki to their fans at the team's "On Deck" event on Jan. 29. Information about the fanfest is at


          • #6
            Good article about Aoki arriving at camp:


            PHOENIX -- Japanese import Norichika Aoki reported to Maryvale Baseball Park just after 8 a.m. local time on Thursday and dove into a flurry of activity. There were handshakes and awkward bows from his new Brewers teammates, a brief hello from manager Ron Roenicke, athletic trainers asking questions, clubhouse attendants holding uniform pants, jerseys and helmets to fit.

            Finally, the most unlikely of familiar faces.

            "Hisashiburi ne," said Brewers right-hander Frankie De La Cruz.

            Long time, no see.

            De La Cruz and Aoki were teammates in 2010 with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and are now reunited with the Brewers as Aoki begins a new chapter in his career. He's was three-time batting champion in Japan, a six-time Gold Glover, a star, but now he's fulfilling a dream by starting over in the U.S.

            "I actually feel like a rookie again," Aoki said.

            He spoke through interpreter Kosuke Inaji, who returns to Milwaukee after working alongside reliever Takashi Saito last season. Saito, who has since signed with the D-backs, offered Aoki positive reports about the Brewers, the city of Milwaukee and playing at Miller Park, a conversation that made Aoki more comfortable in signing an incentive-rich, two-year contract with the Brewers, who will wait to determine exactly how he'll fit in until they see him in action.
            That process began Thursday, when Aoki met the media, then took batting practice with second baseman Rickie Weeks on a back field at Maryvale Baseball Park.

            "He's in America now," De La Cruz said. "It's different baseball. I know when I was there, he was a wonderful player. I heard people say he was the next Ichiro Suzuki. I think he'll be good here."

            Aoki, 30 and a left-handed hitter, batted .329 over parts of eight seasons with Yakult, with 84 home runs, 385 RBIs and 164 stolen bases in 985 games. He batted better than .300 in six of his seven full seasons and was Central League batting champion in 2005 (.344), '07 (.346) and '10 (.358).

            He was the 2005 Central League Rookie of the Year, a six-time Golden Glove Award winner and represented Japan in both World Baseball Classics.

            "I've known since college that I wanted to play in America," Aoki said. "In that sense, I wouldn't say it took a lot of courage to [accept] the challenge over here. It's something that I've always wanted in my life. Basically, it's a new chapter in my life."

            His family is on board.

            "My father, he is a big fan of beer," Aoki said, smiling. "So he is really excited to come up there and try all of the beer in Milwaukee."

            Up first: Six weeks of Spring Training in which the Brewers will learn more about Aoki's fit on the roster. They do not scout Japan, and made their bid based on reports from the World Baseball Classic and video. A contingent of Brewers officials watched him hit and take fly balls in Phoenix in early January before engaging in negotiations with agent Nez Balelo on a contract.

            "We've worked out Nori, we've seen videos on him, we've heard very good things about his game," Roenicke said. "He's a well-polished player, so at any position we put him, or if it's to come off the bench to bunt or hit late in the game, he's able to do a lot of things to help us. How many games he's starting? I don't know that yet."

            The answer could depend partly on left fielder Ryan Braun, whose status remained unresolved as Aoki met the media Thursday, a day before Brewers position players report for Spring Training. Braun has appealed a positive test under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, but as of Thursday, five weeks after his appeal began, the result was unknown.

            The Brewers made their bid for Aoki about a week after ESPN first reported that Braun faced a suspension.

            "It looks like he really uses his hands well," Weeks said after his hitting session with Aoki. "You need to do that to be a good Major League Baseball hitter. He's way ahead of the game in that way."

            Aoki will face adjustments both at and away from the ballpark. Japanese players typically spend much more time in training than their U.S. counterparts, and general manager Doug Melvin made clear to Aoki that club officials do not expect him to immediately produce in Spring Training games.

            "He talked about feeling like a rookie, but he doesn't need to come into this camp feeling like he has to make our team," Roenicke said. "Of course, he wants to impress, and of course we want to see what kind of ability he has."

            Versatility was key to the club's interest. New Brewers front office staffer Craig Counsell studied video of Aoki and believes his short stroke and all-fields approach could make him an effective pinch-hitter. Roenicke likes Aoki's speed, and the fact he could play any of the three outfield positions.

            "I"ve already made a lot of preparations during the offseason in Japan," Aoki said. "Even here, there's only going to be a week or so before the Spring Training games start. I'm prepared for that. Basically, what I'm trying to do now is trying to get used to living over here, the little tiny adjustments I have to make between life over here and life in Japan.

            "I actually feel like I am a Major League player now, wearing the uniform," Aoki said. "It's a very new feeling, and a very good feeling as well."


            • #7
              He's actually been quite solid for the Brew Crew this year. Decent OBP, good speed, some power. In just the last month, he's hit 10 doubles and stolen eight bases, while striking out only six times. Not bad at all.