Sep 14, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki tries to get on base with a bunt but was out on a close play at first in the third inning during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Aoki Over Choo Makes Sense

The hot stove is heating up. We’re finally starting to hear rumors about players that may interest the Mets, so now it’s time to pick those rumors apart.

As Danny Abriano pointed out in his recent article, some of the information out there is contradictory (even coming from within the same publication). However, that’s what makes it fun, right? The Mets have been tied (or untied, depending on the source) to Shin-Soo Choo and Norichika Aoki. The players are somewhat similar (and they’re both 31 years old), so it’s unlikely the Mets would bring in both. But which is a better option? Let’s look at 3 reasons why Aoki may be the better fit for the Mets.

1. Money: Choo is likely (according to reports) to command around $90-$100 million for 6 years. This would equate to approximately $15 million per season (on the low end). And as we know, that amount would be about 35-50% of what the Mets can spend on additional payroll. Aoki is signed for one more year, at roughly $2 million. Aoki is arbitration eligible in 2015, and cannot be a free agent until 2018.

2. Production: As is mentioned above, the two players are somewhat similar statistically (though Choo has been in the U.S. longer). Last year, Aoki’s triple slash was .286/.356/.370. He stole 20 bases, and was caught 12 times. Aoki walked 55 times. Against left-handers, the left-handed-hitting Aoki hit .339, while hitting .264 against right-handers. Choo’s triple slash last year was .285/.423/.462. Choo stole 20 bases, and was caught 11 times. Choo walked 112 times. Against left-handers, the left-handed-hitting Choo hit .215, while hitting .317 against right-handers. What we see here is that Choo hits for more power, and gets on base more often. However, he struggles against left-handed pitching, while Aoki’s splits are more even (ironically better against lefties). Are Choo’s statistics worth $13 million more per year than Aoki’s? To me, they’re not.

3. Method of acquisition: To get Choo, the Mets will need to sign him as a free agent. That means they’ll lose their second-round draft pick, and some slot money. They’ll also likely be in a bidding war with a few teams. To acquire Aoki, the Mets will have to trade with Milwaukee. Interestingly, the Brewers are said to be seeking left-handed power at first base. The Mets have 2 such players to offer, in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. Trading one of them would mean that the Mets are dealing from a position of surplus, and also clearing a spot on the roster (they don’t need Davis, Duda, and Josh Satin on the same roster).

It may turn out that the Mets acquire neither Aoki nor Choo. However, either player could play right field, and possibly lead off (depending on the construct of the roster come opening day). If the Mets were to acquire one or the other, I’d take Aoki, understanding that Choo may be a slightly better player all around. What really matters is what Sandy Alderson thinks.

How about you? What do you think?


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Tags: Ike Davis Lucas Duda Norichika Aoki Shin-Soo Choo

  • Dan Haefeli

    I like Norichika Aoka, but not if we have to give up anything of worth. The problem is, Aoka’s contract stipulates that the Brewers (or Mets, should a trade occur) do not have arbitration rights. So unless he signs an extension, he’s a free agent next year.

    I’m patently against trading Ike either way (full disclosure). I also think Choo is the better player, but on a per-dollar basis it’s arguably a different story.

  • AnakinCorleone

    Duda and Davis are essentially the same player, in that they are both left-handed hitters that should platoon with Josh Satin at 1B. Aoki on a low-cost, one-year rental is not a bad idea since it also allows the Mets one more year to see if Cesar Puello and any of the other guys down on the farm are legit.

  • Nessim Toledano

    The premise for this column is that they are similar players. But they’re not.
    Choo’s OBP and slugging pct are substantially higher. All told, we are talking about a 170 point difference in their OPS, and that’s significant.

    More importantly, Choo hits RIGHTIES better, and the Mets struggled more against RH pitching last year than against lefties. This is doubly, or even triply important considering that 70% of all starting pitchers are right handed.
    In a nutshell, Choo is a definitively better addition to this team’s line-up. I don’t think tats even a question.

    The cost factor is still a major issue, however, and that [alone] should tilt things towards Aoki. I’m still not convinced that Duda is a bona fide major leaguer, so I’d trade him in a heartbeat if I thought I could get a big leaguer in return for him. But I’m not sure that you could get that, especially not from a NL team.
    But the whole point is relatively moot, because the Mets aren’t going to spend the kind of money (and years) that Choo is likely to get in this market.
    The real question is how Aoki compares to the second-tier free agent OFs.

    • Dan Haefeli

      This is true, but their differences mostly come down to power. Choo is somewhat more likely to walk, but his OBP in 2013 was somewhat fuelled by getting plunked 24 times (which becomes an injury concern). Similarly, Choo is much more likely to strike out than Aoki, which starts to become a large problem should it continue.

      I don’t view Aoki as a top-tier outfielder, and I think Choo is the faraway better player (offensively). The likely cost difference is significant though. That said, since Aoki is going to be a free agent next year anyway, I feel like the Mets should just wait to sign him if they really want him.

    • Chums

      I agree, Shoo is a superior ball player which is why the market is willing to pay him considerably more than Aoki. Having said that, Bloomberg has valued the Mets franchise at $2.0 billion and therefore we shouldn’t even be having these discussions. Further, while the Wilpon’s whine about the team’s lack of revenues, if they opened up the purse and spent competitively, we would have a competitive team that would bring the fans to the park. Simple economics Freddy, if you want to make money, you have to invest some money. Economics: clearly a class you must have skipped in college as evidenced by your placing all of your investment with one investment manager (Madoff).

  • Rich S

    You’re right about the comntract, Dan. Baseball reference had him as FA eligible after 2018, but there is a clause in his deal that allows him to go FA after 2014, with no 3 years of arbitration first. And I agree with the other comments that Choo is better. My point was, who is the better value?