Should the San Francisco Giants Exercise Nori Aoki’s 2016 Option?


Before Spring Training started for the 2015 season, the San Francsico Giants signed Nori Aoki to a one-year contract worth $4 million. That relatively small sum of money turned out to be a bargain, as Aoki slashed and dashed his way around the diamond, becoming a phenomenal leadoff hitter for the Giants.

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That one-season deal Aoki signed included a team option for a second year, worth $5.5 million. The option would have vested into a mutual option were Aoki to reach 550 plate appearances. At 392 plate appearances right now, Aoki would need to return, play everyday, and average over seven plate appearances per game over the next 22 games to reach that total. In other words, that option will not vest, leaving Aoki’s fate in the Giants’ hands.

The Giants were treated to an incredible first-half from Aoki. Entering play on June 20th, Aoki owned a .317/.381/.385 slash-line, led the team in stolen bases, and was one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. He was nearly voted a starter in the All-Star Game.

But on June 20th, Aoki’s luck took a sharp, downward turn. Leading off the game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Aoki was hit on the left leg with a fastball from Carlos Frias, causing a fracture that put him on the disabled list for over a month.

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Aoki returned, and the time off clearly took a toll. He struggled for the most part, and just when it seemed like he may have been getting back to his old self, he was hit in the head by a Jake Arrieta fastball on August 9th, causing a concussion that has had him bouncing from the bench to the starting lineup since.

Aoki has hit just .204 in the second half, and his health is a serious question moving forward. But if Aoki is healthy, and would have no restrictions for next season, the Giants absolutely should pick up Aoki’s option for 2016.

If the Giants are serious about their offseason plans of drastically upgrading their rotation through free agency, they likely won’t be able to sign an impactful slugger to play left field everyday. The team seems serious about re-signing Mike Leake to make him more than just a two-month (minus a couple weeks on the disabled list) rental. They also seem pretty set on being serious suitors for other high quality starting pitchers, like Jordan Zimmermann, who has been linked to the Giants in the past, and now those rumors have popped up again.

Spending an exorbitant amount of money is a neccesary evil in baseball today, if a team wants to pick up some high quality arms through free agency. Leake isn’t considered a top-tier free agent pitcher, but he will likely command over $15 million annually on his new contract, and that number will probably reach closer to $20 million. Zimmermann is considered a level higher than Leake, closer to pitchers like David Price and Zack Greinke, and thus will get a richer contract than Leake.

Unless the Giants’ brass really ups their budget this offseason, their budget may not allow them to spend big on pitchers, and in addition, sign an impact left fielder for the middle of their lineup.

Yoenis Cespedes‘ stock is skyrocketing since his trade to the New York Mets. In just 37 games, he’s hit 14 home runs, driven in 36 runs, and owns a 1.0032 OPS. He’ll be a free agent after 2015, and figures to get a hefty raise from the $10.5 million he’s earning this year.

Justin Upton is another big name left fielder due to be a free agent. He’s already stated in the past that he doesn’t like playing in AT&T Park as a visitor, and it would take a huge payday to lure him to the orange and black. He’s already making $14.5 million this year.

Gerardo Parra is a possibility for the Giants. Giants’ insider Andrew Baggarly has said the Giants have been big fans of Parra for a while, but the Arizona Diamondbacks wouldn’t deal him within the division. Now that the one-year deal he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers is expiring (he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles at the deadline), the Giants could have another chance to swoop in and take Parra.

Parra’s deal with Milwaukee was worth $6.2 million, and his next contract figures to be worth more. In the end, they’ll still end up paying more for Parra than they would picking up Aoki’s option.

If Aoki is healthy, the Giants might be best served by picking up his option, and using the money to upgrade more pressing areas of need. The rotation is priority number one, and the bench depth has to be dealt with as well. As long as Aoki is healthy and in left field, the Giants have bigger problems to deal with.

Next: Early Giants' 2016 Roster Chatter