Potential Cincinnati Reds Free Agent Target: Nori Aoki


The 2014 Cincinnati Reds teased us with promises in the first half before imploding after the All-Star break, and now they face an uncertain short-term future. Assuming that general manager Walt Jocketty does not trade 80% of his starting rotation before Opening Day, the Reds will enter 2015 hoping to contend for a post-season berth. In order for that to happen, they will need to beef up their offense and fill a hole in left field, but the franchise will need to find creative ways to go about those upgrades, and they face another year of already-overwhelming payroll.  One player with whom the Reds have been associated on the rumor mill, and whom Jocketty has even pointed out as a potential Red, is Kansas City Royals free agent outfielder Nori Aoki.  

More from Cincinnati Reds

Why He’s Available

Originally signed out of Japan by the Milwaukee Brewers three years ago, Aoki spent the 2012-13 seasons with the Brew Crew before being traded to the Royals last winter for Will Smith.  Before flipping him for the Fresh Prince, though, Milwaukee exercised his $2-million option for 2014. At that price, he was a decent pickup for the Royals, holding down right field while providing league-average production at the plate.

Now, though, bolstered in part by the Royals’ post-season success, Aoki is said to be seeking a three-year deal, and Charlie Wilmoth at MLBTradeRumors.com predicts that Aoki will end up with two years and $16 million. That’s probably a little much for the Royals to pay for a guy who will be 33 years old in 2015, especially when they still have payroll constraints.  There are also rumblings about Torii Hunter sailing into KC, and there isn’t room for two old right fielders on anyone’s roster.

Why He Fits for the Reds

I’m not sold on Aoki being the cure-all for the Reds that many seem to envision, but he does have some strengths that could benefit Cincinnati in 2015. He gets on base at a good pace, .353 in his three years in MBL and .349 last year. He can steal a base, though he gets caught on more than a third of his attempts. He is capable of playing OK defense in right, though he was not very good there in 2014. Presumably, he could handle left field.

Mostly, Aoki’s strengths are that he is available and is at least perceived to be better than Ryan Ludwick was for the Reds in 2014.

Why He Might NOT Fit for the Reds

Aoki might not fit for the Reds for most of the same reasons why the Royals might not bring him back: he’s aging, he’s not great defensively, he’s likely to cost too much for what he offers and there are better options available.

Aoki has also not played much in left field in the Majors, just 18 games in three years. That’s not a huge knock, but is another reason that the Reds might want to pass, given that they need a left fielder.

Reds Prediction

If Johnny Cueto does not tumble out of town in the next few weeks, then Aoki seems to be a very likely signing for the Reds.  I wish it weren’t so, but I fear that it is.