The Giants hold a $5.5-million option on Norichika Aoki with a $700,000 buyout, which means the team has to decide if they want Aoki back for an extra $4.8 million. According to Jon Heyman, the answer is likely to be yes, but with one big caveat:
The Giants will pick up the $5.5-million option of Nori Aoki presuming he continues to heal (he was hit in the head twice by pitches in the second half following his very nice start in San Francisco). Aoki wouldn't mind going back there, either
This translates to "if Aoki passes a concussion test, he'll be back." Which sounds fine and logical, except concussion tests are kind of like those "Which cast member of ALF are you?" personality tests on the Internet. They might get the answer right, but that doesn't mean you're going to be convinced enough to spend $4.8 million. And while that might be the worst analogy in the history of this site, the point is that Aoki already did pass his concussion tests after an injury this year. Then he got another concussion.
Unless that was Brandon Belt. Unless it was both of them, with Gregor Blanco mixed in. You do your stuff, odd year.
Even if Aoki has a clean bill of health, it's not clear that the Giants would want to risk that much money on the vagaries of a concussion test. Aoki had a .353 on-base percentage, which is well above-average, but that's just about all he can do well. He's one of the worst baserunners in baseball, behind guys like Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina, which is hard to do when you're as fast as Aoki. He's also an adventure in left field, but it's the kind of adventure featuring a dizzy burro and a Navy SEAL on mescaline. You want to watch! But it's not always successful.
His picture game is still strong, of course.
But all you're getting for your money are singles and OBP. And pictures. Is that worth $4.8 million?
Probably. If Aoki gets 300 or 400 at-bats, he's probably worth a win or so, and that's below what the nerds have figured a win above replacement costs these days. It would be a decent bargain, and it would give the Giants the outfield depth they were supposed to have in the first place last year.
This doesn't mean that he should be the guaranteed starter, and that the Giants are done tinkering with the lineup. For that salary, it's not unreasonable to bring Aoki back as a co-fourth outfielder with Gregor Blanco. You know someone's going to break, anyway.
There is something to be said, though, about the fourth or fifth outfielder offering power off the bench. If Aoki isn't the starter, Jarrett Parker might fit the roster better, but I'll err on the side of recent history, and Aoki's been consistently valuable every year. Not that valuable, mind you, and the things that limit his value are PRETTY FRUSTRATING TO WATCH, but he has a track record of helping his team win.
For $4.8 million, the Giants could do worse. Hopefully (for baseball and life reasons) Aoki is okay, and the report is right.