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Norichika Aoki is extremely close to becoming a free agent after the season

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A couple of dinguses with wild fastballs hurt the Giants in 2015, but they might have helped them in 2016.

Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

When Norichika Aoki signed his deal with the Giants in the offseason, it was reported as a one-year deal with a team option. It was great news, considering that he was a relative bargain, and it was likely to give the Giants a lot of roster flexibility. At his current prices, he's almost making fourth-outfielder money, which could free the Giants up to scratch a dinger itch in the offseason. Or the money saved would allow them to help the roster in some other capacity.

However, astute emailer Jon (thanks Jon!) points out that it's a team option for $5.5 million ... but only if Aoki fails to reach 550 plate appearances. If he does reach 550 PA, the option becomes a mutual option that he would likely decline, considering his 2015 production. He would get more money on the open market this year, most likely.

It's a gonna be close. Aoki is at 336 plate appearances right now, and there are 51 games left. That would mean he would need to average almost 4.2 PA from now until the end of the season. The #1 spot in the order has averaged about 4.6 PA in every game. The #2 spot in the order has averaged just over 4.5 PA. As a starter, Aoki has been lower in the order just twice all season, so he's probably hitting first or second when he's healthy, barring a slump.

That's all before Sunday's beaning, though. There's still no word if Aoki will need to go on the 7-day concussion DL, but it's looking good.

Nori Aoki will be examined Monday after taking a Jake Arrieta pitch off his helmet in the third inning and falling to the ground. Aoki said he felt nauseous at first and after the game had "just a little headache."

Great news. A healthy Aoki (with a functioning brain) is much, much more important than a relatively cheap Aoki.

Re-running the numbers, though, it looks like if Aoki misses five more games, he'll have a tough time reaching 550. It'll be close, at least. If he hits #2 instead of leadoff -- considering the Pagan Must Hit Leadoff Act passed by Obama last month -- just four missed games might be enough to prevent him from reaching the mark.

Also, this doesn't account for the 19-inning game against the Padres next month.

If you're thinking the Giants could rest him for those four or five games, just to keep him fresh, you might have something. Except a) the Giants aren't ghouls, b) the MLBPA is always on the lookout for ghouls, and c) in a season that might be decided by a single game, it's probably best to not play around with your best players to save a few bucks.

It's just another thing to keep an eye on. Next season, when the even-year Giants are rolling through the Dodgers in the NLCS, and Aoki has 38 hits, remember that he wouldn't have even been on the team if it weren't for Carlos Frias, noted dingus.

Here's hoping Aoki is healthy and on the Giants next year, regardless of exactly how it happens. It'll be close, though. A lot closer than we figured just a few months ago.