San Francisco Giants: Picking Up Aoki’s Option is Smart Move


On Friday, CBS Sports’ MLB insider Jon Heyman reported (at the very bottom of this huge blurb of baseball news) that the San Francisco Giants will pick up outfielder Nori Aoki‘s $5.5 million option, as long as Aoki is healthy.

Of course, there is that one caveat: the pesky phrase “if he’s healthy”. Aoki’s health is a big question mark at this point, as his season ended early because of a concussion suffered from a Jake Arrieta fastball that hit him in the helmet. Aoki made a couple of returns to the lineup, trying to battle through and help a team that was already depleted by a myriad of injuries to various key players, but lingering symptoms shut him down for good after September 3rd.

The Giants are very familiar with the risk that comes from players dealing with concussions. Brandon Belt has suffered from two over the past two seasons. Last year, Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco‘s season were both cut short because of head injuries. The team will certainly make the right choice on whether or not Aoki is a Giant next year.

If the Giants do in fact pick up Aoki’s option and bring him back as their left fielder, it won’t be the sexiest move, the move that puts them over the top offensively in a very tough, and rapidly improving, National League. But it may just be the smartest move they can make for left field.

Even though the Giants have a lot of money to spend this offseason, with a lot of big contracts coming off their records, money is pretty tight involving position players. With around $50 million to throw around at various players on the market, the Giants do figure to be busy in free agency. But the big, glaring need for the Giants is in their pitching staff, and that money needs to be put towards fixing that hole.

The Giants signed Aoki in January to a contract worth less than $5 million, and he was worth every penny before his injury issues began. In the first half, Aoki was nearly named an All-Star by fan voting, and on June 20th, he was slashing .317/.383/.385. He walked more often than he struck out, and was a terror on the basepaths. He led the Giants with 12 stolen bases, and scored 33 times.

But on June 20th, his season took a downward turn, and it wasn’t through any fault of his own. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Aoki was hit with a pitch in the lower leg by Carlos Frias. Aoki sustained a fracture that kept him off the field for more than a month. He would play just 26 games over the final two months of the season, struggling to a .204/.267/.366 slash-line to end the season.

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Aoki’s final numbers were nearly identical to his career averages. In his first three seasons in Major League Baseball, Aoki slashed .287/.353/.387. In 2015, those numbers were .287/.353/.380.

The two combined injuries limited Aoki to 93 games, but was a fantastic leadoff hitter when he was healthy. He was the Giants’ most consistent hitter over the first half, and if not for the bad luck, he could have been helping to lead the Giants into the postseason. Instead, Aoki was part of the Giants’ long laundry list of injured players who could only watch as the Giants fell short of making the postseason for the third straight season following a World Series championship.

If Aoki is brought back, he figures to be atop the Giants’ lineup on a daily basis again. With all the pieces placed back into the batting order, the Giants have an opportunity to be one of the better offenses in baseball again. Aoki was the spark plug for a lot of 2015, and can be that again in 2016.

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