By Maiya Gessling
The North American Post
The Seattle Mariners have been busy in the days leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, and most recently agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Norichika Aoki on Wednesday. Financial details are not yet known, but the deal is for one year with an option for a second year and is pending a physical. Aoki, who hit for a .287 batting average (BA) and .353 on base percentage (OBP) for the San Francisco Giants in 2014, was sidelined in August when he was hit in the head by a pitch. He suffered from concussion symptoms for the remainder of the season.
Aoki has been remarkably consistent through his four years in the big leagues, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and Giants. He appeared in the World Series for the Royals in 2014 and was having a career year in 2015, with a .305 BA and .365 OBP, before the hit by pitch. The Giants declined his $5.5 million option for 2016 to make Aoki a free agent.
As of Tuesday, Hiroshima Carp pitcher Kenta Maeda in Japan has asked, again, for his team to post him for MLB clubs this off season, and it is likely the Carp will finally do so. Maeda is 27 years old and finished the 2015 season with a 2.09 earned run average (ERA) and 15-8 win-loss record. He won the Sawamura Award for Japan’s top pitcher, as he did in 2010.
Maeda is not as highly regarded as aces such as Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka, but he has a career 2.39 ERA in Japan and a 97-67 overall record. He hasn’t recorded an ERA over 3 since 2009, and has pitched up to 216 innings in a season. Similarly to Hisashi Iwakuma, he is seen as a solid, mid-rotation starter at the MLB level, and has gained significant interest from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Iwakuma himself is a question mark. As expected, he declined the Mariners $15.8 million qualifying offer earlier this month in hopes of securing a multi-year deal. Since then rumors have linked him to the New York Yankees, Royals, Chicago Cubs and back to the Mariners. The Mariners have called signing the right-hander fan favorite, who posted a 3.54 ERA, 9-5 record and a no-hitter in 2015, a “priority.”