The Giants nudged aside cost certainty on Wednesday night, declining Norichika Aoki's $5.5 option, and spending $700,000 to buy it out. The Giants also declined Marlon Byrd's $8 million option, effectively making left field a PIT OF ANARCHY. Unless Gregor Blanco and Mac Williamson fill the position. More on that later.
Aoki was excellent for the Giants for the first part of the year, hitting for average and getting on base. You hardly even noticed his weird defense and baserunning until, whoops, you noticed his weird defense and baserunning. The combination of the two suppressed Aoki's value, giving him just one win over replacement in 93 games last year.
However, that's probably a sign that Aoki is priced appropriately at $4.8 million. If the Giants wanted to upgrade in the offseason, that salary shouldn't be that onerous, right? The Dodgers pick their teeth with contracts like that.
Alas, the Giants really are concerned about that extra scratch. Andrew Baggarly tells us more:
"The timing is bad because we have a lot of things to address this winter and a lot of things we want to look at, and it’s about keeping our options open," Evans said. "To predetermine left field today is just premature."
Apparently Aoki's concussion was not a factor in the decision. The Giants' flexibility to acquire more pitching was the reason for the decision, according to Baggarly. If the choice the Giants have to make is between Ace Pitcher with Jarrett Parker playing left vs. Jeff Samardzija and Aoki, I can see their point. You can see their point. Even if the hole in left makes me uncomfortable. Deeply uncomfortable.
According to FanGraphs, Aoki projected for just under a win next year, too. I would a) take the over on that, and b) not be concerned about him being a backup for $4.8 million. The Giants aren't the Dodgers, though, so they can't just absorb that money on a fourth or fifth outfielder.
The Giants also declined the $8 million option on Marlon Byrd, as expected. Remember that stretch of two weeks when we all figured the Giants were trying to let the option vest? That was weird. This whole season was weird.
Aoki might be on the Giants, yet, but his reasonably priced option was declined. Are the Giants folding those extra clams into the bounty paid to David Price or Zack Greinke? Probably not. Considering the relative bargain of Aoki, though, hopefully they have something else up their sleeves. Their sweaty, moist sleeves. Aoki made a fair amount of sense, really.
Gregor Blanco is the default left fielder, with a left fielder in center, and a hyperactive right fielder in right. At this point, it would stun me if the Giants didn't go hard after Ben Zobrist. Fits so many needs, he does. And now the Giants have an opening in left field.
But, yeah, we will remember Aoki.
Oh, there's a retrospective in store if Aoki leaves. For now, though, he's a free agent. A reasonably priced, limited free agent. He doesn't hit for power. He swallows his own feet around the bases. And he is and adventure in the outfield. But he could sure slap the ball around, enough to make me wonder if this decision is a mistake.
Okay, so after the Giants sign Justin Upton and David Price, here's my plan ...