As the Winter Meetings approach on Monday, I’ll continue to field questions regarding the Orioles’ interest in specific players. I can confirm some, make an educated guess on others and plead ignorant on most.
I’ve been asked about free agent outfielder Nori Aoki, who batted .285/.349/.360 this year in 132 games with the Royals.
I’m told that the Orioles have “limited” interest in Aoki. I’d expect executive vice president Dan Duquette to meet with agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports next week in San Diego and the team to remain linked to Aoki until he makes a decision.
I’m not sure whether this qualifies as being “in on” Aoki. At the very least, they’re kicking the tires. I’d rather go with that tired hot stove phrase.
You pretty much know what you’re getting with Aoki, a left-handed hitter who turns 33 in January. He’s batted .288, .286 and .285 in three seasons in the majors, the first two with the Brewers.
Aoki has a career .353 on-base percentage, which should be appealing to the Orioles. He’s a career .319/.371/.405 hitter against left-handed pitching. He hit one home run this season and has totaled 19 in the majors, which should be deemed insufficient for a corner outfielder.
Aoki is rated as a plus-defender, which didn’t show up in the postseason games I watched. He misplayed a few balls and was replaced in the late innings. He stole 30 bases as a rookie, but is 37-for-57 over the past two seasons.
MLBTradeRumors.com projects a two-year, $16 million contract for Aoki.
The Orioles have been engaged in trade discussions regarding Matt Kemp and Justin Upton and they’ve viewed free agent Melky Cabrera as a possible fallback option. Other names will surface in San Diego.
Kemp and Upton come with a different set of obstacles in getting a deal done - Kemp with his contract and injury baggage, Upton with his status as a pending free agent after 2015.