The Houston Astros and outfielder Nori Aoki have reached an agreement on a one-year deal worth $5.5 million for the upcoming 2017 season, thus avoiding arbitration according to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Aoki was claimed by Houston off waivers from the Seattle Mariners back on Nov. 3.
It’s the second season in a row that Aoki will be playing on a one-year deal worth $5.5 million, as he signed with Seattle for the same last season. In 118 games with the Mariners, he batted .283/.349/.388 with four home runs and 28 RBI, spending most of the season in left field. His age-34 season showcased a career-low seven stolen bases, after having swiped 30 bases during his rookie year in 2012.
It will be the fourth consecutive year Aoki will be playing for a new team to open the season, having spent 2013 with the Milwaukee Brewers, 2014 with the San Francisco Giants, and 2015 with the Mariners. He first came over to the United States from Japan in 2012 when he was signed by Milwaukee and finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in his first season at age 30.
The Astros already had a well-stocked outfield, but with a $5.5 million commitment to Aoki, they will need to find at-bats for the left-hander. Outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick figure to command a large portion of the at-bats, which leaves battles with Tony Kemp, Teoscar Hernandez, Preston Tucker, and more, for the final slot.
Based on his 2016 splits, his at-bats will not come against left-handed pitching. Aoki hit just .227 against southpaws with three extra-base hits, while he batted .300 against righties, striking out only 30 times in 359 plate appearances.