Brewers enter bidding for Japanese outfielder

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, December 19, 2011
— Apparently seeking to add depth in the outfield with Ryan Braun facing a 50-game suspension to open next season, the Milwaukee Brewers have entered into the bidding for Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki.

The posting for Aoki, a two-time Central League batting champion with the Yakult Swallows, is a blind process that ends on Thursday, at which time the winning team will be informed of its high bid by the commissionerís office.

If the Brewers wind up getting the high bid, they would have a 30-day window in which they would seek to negotiate a contract with the left-handed-hitting Aoki.

If a deal canít be worked out between the Brewers and Aoki, the amount Milwaukee bid for his exclusive negotiating rights would be returned by Yakult.

A story Friday in the Japanese sports daily Hochi Shimbun stated the Brewers had already won the negotiating rights to Aoki with a $2.5 million bid, news that was picked up by numerous American news outlets.

General manager Doug Melvin did not return calls seeking comment on the situation, and the Brewers have made no announcements regarding Aoki.

Aoki, listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, hit .292 with four home runs and 51 runs batted in over 144 games this season with a .358 on-base percentage.

In 2010, Aoki led the league with both a .358 average and a career-high 209 hits.

Over eight seasons, the 29-year-old Aoki has twice led the league in batting average, hits and on-base percentage while playing mostly center field for the Swallows.

Heís drawn comparisons to former Japanese great and current Seattle Mariners All-Star Ichiro Suzuki for his bat control and ability to slap the ball to the opposite field.

Milwaukee has a few other alternatives to replace Braun aside from Aoki.

It could break up the center-field platoon of Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez by starting Morgan in left and Gomez in center, or give minor-league prospects Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl a chance to win the left-field job in spring training.

The Brewers also could look to add a veteran outfielder off waivers or via trade, much in the same manner they acquired Morgan in March.

Aoki has played mostly center field in Japan, winning three consecutive Golden Glove awards from 2006-í08.

Reports say his throwing arm probably isnít strong enough to play center in the major leagues, which would make him a more viable candidate for left with the Brewers.

Last updated: 7:05 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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