Aoki agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Astros on Wednesday, avoiding arbitration, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. The Josh Reddick signing last week clouded Aoki's future with the organization a bit, with some speculating that he could be non-tendered, but the 34-year-old is staying put. A waiver acquisition earlier this month, Aoki hit .283/.349/.388 in 118 games with the Mariners this past season, striking out just 45 times in 417 plate appearances. As a high-contact lefty, Aoki could see regular time on the favorable end of a left-field platoon.
Aoki was claimed off waivers by the Astros on Thursday, Shannon Drayer of ESPN Radio reports. Aoki batted a solid .283 in 2016, but his ability to hit lefties completely disappeared over the course of the season. That being said, the 34-year-old is an outstanding contact hitter, which could bode well for him to garner a spot in the outfield for a strikeout-happy Astros squad.
Aoki is out of Sunday's lineup against the A's, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. Aoki has been putting on a show in recent outings. Over the last six games, he's gone 10-for-22 (.455) with three doubles and a home run. However, he'll be replaced by Ben Gamel in left field Sunday afternoon.
Aoki had two hits Friday, including a home run, as the Mariners kept their playoff hopes alive with a win against the A's. After a miserable first half, Aoki salvaged his season with a strong second half, particularly in September. In his last 18 games, he's hitting .375 (24 for 64) with six doubles, three homers and 11 RBI. He went to Triple-A at the end August because of a roster-construction issue, but has swung the bat well since coming back from his first trip to Triple-A on July 20. In that span, he's hitting .337/.386/.497 in 50 games. Almost all of that production has come off right-handers (.329/.372/.500), though he has seven hits in 17 at-bats against lefties in that span.
Aoki is not in the lineup Tuesday against the Blue Jays, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. J.A. Happ, a southpaw, is set to take the mound for Toronto, so the Mariners are opting to start Guillermo Heredia in left field and get an extra righty in their lineup. With Aaron Sanchez scheduled to start Wednesday, look for Aoki to return to his usual spot for Seattle's series finale against Toronto.