MILWAUKEE -- As a veteran of professional baseball in Japan, Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki has had many new experiences during his first season in the United States. The latest came on Friday, when Aoki saw teammate Zack Greinke get traded away to the Angels.
In Major League Baseball, in-season trades involving star players are common and happen every season. That's not so in Japan, where Aoki said teams tend to hold onto their best players for longer.
"It is very interesting," Aoki said. "It's just a different way of seeing how things work. There are cultural differences, and that leads to different things. Over here, you trade someone who's going to be a free agent. In Japan, it might be like, 'Why are you trading him away?' There's still kind of a negative aspect to trading. In America, it's more of teams want you; that's why they take you. In Japan -- it's not so much anymore, but it's still there -- teams don't want you, and that's why you're getting traded."
Aoki named a number of factors that make trades such as the one between the Brewers and Angels uncommon in his home country. Players can't test free agency until after their eighth year in Nippon Professional Baseball, which is Japan's major league consisting of just 12 teams -- another reason Aoki said trades aren't as frequent. Also, as opposed to the deep farm systems of Major League clubs, organizations in Japan have just one Minor League team, limiting the number of prospects who can be dealt.
As a whole, Aoki, who didn't hesitate to ask questions when discussing the differences in the way front offices work in the two countries, said he prefers MLB's way of doing things. But that doesn't mean he's used to it.
"Right now, it feels weird that players are getting traded from our clubhouse, and I'm not going to see them every day anymore," Aoki said.
Although it's new for him, Aoki handled questions regarding the team's attitude following the Greinke trade like someone who's gone through it before, saying the Brewers "have to stay positive and just go out there every day and give it our best."
After being presented with the idea that his name could one day come up in trade rumors, Aoki, who was batting .280 with 21 RBIs entering Sunday, said that's not something he's interested in.
"I still have the thinking I had in Japan," Aoki said. "And for me currently, I just want to be able to play for the Brewers and succeed with the Brewers. But that thinking could change as I gain more experience and just get used to the system over here."