Norichika Aoki hasn't reached double-digit home runs since his rookie 2012 season, when he was in a favorable hitting spot with the Brewers. Still, Aoki's career-high 2017 strikeout rate was a mere 11.8 percent, which still ranked him among the best contact hitters with 350-plus plate appearances. Major-league teams will value that ability with at least a part-time lineup role, and his left-handedness gives him a platoon advantage. Unfortunately, much of his plate discipline and contact now leads to an empty batting average that's dependent on him hitting high in the order to add fantasy value. Three teams rented him in 2017, and he could find similar insecurity in 2018, though in fantasy leagues with deep outfielder requirements in a lineup, Aoki could have fleeting stretches of success, perhaps in head-to-head leagues where owners can deploy him against righties.
Aoki agreed to a three-year deal with the Yakult Swallows of Japan's NPB, the Japan Times reports. He played for five MLB teams over the past three years, and understandably opted for security this winter over possibly settling for a minor-league deal in 2018. Aoki has a career .285/.350/.387 slash line with 33 home runs and 98 stolen bases in 759 MLB games.
Aoki was released by the Mets on Monday. Aoki, who is arbitration eligible, would have been due a sizable salary, so the Mets decided to part ways with the 35-year-old and search elsewhere for outfield help. He spent time with the Astros, Blue Jays and Mets last season, compiling a .277/.335/.393 line with five homers and 10 stolen bases in 110 games (274 plate appearances). Aoki will now hit free agency and search for a new destination.
Aoki is out of the lineup against the Braves on Wednesday, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo reports. Aoki will receive a typical day off following 10 starts in the last 11 games, including an 0-for-3 day at the plate Tuesday. Travis Taijeron will take over in right field in his absence, while batting seventh in the order.
Aoki is not in the starting nine for Friday's game against the Braves. Aoki retreats to the bench for the series opener following five straight starts in right field. Travis Taijeron will take his place while batting seventh in the order.
Aoki will start in right field and bat second Monday against the Phillies. Season-ending injuries to Michael Conforto (shoulder) and Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) have thinned the ranks in the outfield, allowing Aoki to emerge as the Mets' preferred option in right field over Travis Taijeron. Aoki, who signed with the Mets on Saturday in the wake of the injuries depleting their depth, will draw his third consecutive start after impressing in his first two appearances with the club with four hits and two RBI over nine at-bats. Since Aoki is a 35-year-old player bound for free agency this winter, the Mets don't have much of a commitment to getting him regular at-bats, so if his offense ends up slumping later in September, Taijeron could get another look in an everyday role.