> A few hours after their deadline to sign the Japanese outfielder, the Brewers announced that they’ve struck a two-year deal with Norichika Aoki. The deal’s base salary has yet to be announced (at least I haven’t seen it), but it’s reportedly full of incentives that can be earned by certain milestones, I’m guessing.
Aoki joins an outfield that currently consists of Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Carlos Gomez, and Nyjer Morgan. Five outfielders is typically too many, but we don’t know if Braun will be on the field for the first 50 games of the season, so Aoki provides some depth if that doesn’t go over well. It was also reported that Ron Roenicke has also contacted Hart about playing some first base- his natural position- next year. Right now, first base is expected to be vacated by Mat Gamel. But who knows- they could split time there, with Gamel being a lefty and Hart a righty.
Anyway, back to Aoki. According to Doug Melvin, Aoki said that he “never asked about playing time, he’s just confident that he can come over and show us his skill set.” Now that’s what I like to hear. At least we know he’s not like Hideki Irabu, who demanded to be sent to the Yankees after signing out of Japan with the Padres.
Aoki also has a mantle full of awards that he’s won in Japan. He has multiple batting titles, Gold Gloves, and All-Star appearances. Obviously, the Japanese league is considered the equivalent of a Triple-A team in the MLB, but still, those are some great achievements that give me confidence in him.
To go along with those awards, he’s a career .329 hitter in eight professional seasons, with 84 home runs and 385 RBIs, along with 364 stolen bases. The numbers show he isn’t really a power hitter, but he’s definitely got speed.
Overall, based on what I’ve heard so far, I’m excited to see this guy play in the Majors, and hopefully this deal works out for the best.
> Here’s something no one expected- the Brewers and Francisco Rodriguez agreed to a one-year deal today, avoiding arbitration. Well, I guess that was expected, but did you expect him to take a pay cut? That’s right, he signed for just $8 million. Normally, that’s a lot. But, when Rodriguez was expected to make somewhere in the vicinity of $13-14 million, then it doesn’t seem like so much.
Who knows how he’ll react to this on the field, taking a pay cut to do a job he doesn’t even want to do. But maybe he finally came to his senses and wants to do what’s best to contend.
On another arbitration note, the Brewers also avoided arbitration with Kameron Loe, signing the righty to a one-year deal worth $2.175 million. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’d know that I’m not Loe’s biggest fan, but I’m fine with this, I guess.
> Craig Counsell is coming back to the Brewers next year. No, not as the utility man he’s been over the past few years, but as the special assistant to the GM Melvin in the front office.
Yep, Counsell decided to call it a career after hitting just .178 in 2011, including an 0-for-45 streak that was just tough to watch. He still thought about deals for playing for a Major League team, but the deals he was offered never went beyond a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. It was also reported that Dale Sveum asked him to be the Cubs’ first base coach, but Counsell said that the “timing wasn’t right.”
Counsell was a career .255 hitter in 16 seasons, six of which came with the Brewers. He’s also got two World Series rings- one with the Marlins, and one with the Diamondbacks.
I’m glad he decided to take a job with the Brewers. Counsell’s a true class act, and he’ll always be one of my favorite players who donned a Brewers uniform.
> And that’s it. I’m starting to realize that not much is going to happen the rest of the offseason that’s significant to the Brewers (other than the Braun situation and where Prince Fielder will end up), so, starting tomorrow, assuming there’s no big news, I’m going to start a series of articles reviewing the 2012 starting rotations in the NL Central. I don’t know which team I’ll do first, but, for some reason, I’m thinking I’ll do the Cubs or the Astros- two rotations I doubt will be successful in 2012.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.