BOSTON -- In a move long forecast by Brewers officials, the club quietly exercised outfielder Norichika Aoki's 2014 club option earlier this month, guaranteeing the former Japanese batting champion just shy of $2 million next season.
Aoki originally signed in January 2012 for two years plus an option, a cost-effective leap of faith for a Brewers club that never scouted him in person. He emerged as the everyday right fielder in 2012 after injuries necessitated Corey Hart's move to first base, then reprised that role in 2013 while batting out of the leadoff spot.
Aoki has batted .287 with a .356 on-base percentage, 18 home runs, 50 stolen bases and 161 runs scored in his first 306 games in the Major Leagues. Those accomplishments pushed the price of his 2014 option, originally set at $1.5 million, to more than $1.9 million, according to a baseball source, with incentives that could push his 2014 earnings over $3 million.
The Brewers formally made the move on Oct. 8 and announced it on Tuesday.
"Nori has been an outstanding teammate, outstanding member of the community," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said during the final series of the regular season. "He's always willing to help out, doing things in the community. And one of the toughest outs in the Major Leagues. That's a matter of fact. He's very tough to get out."
Aoki's name appeared sparingly in trade rumors earlier this year, and figures to appear again in 2014 because he is a free agent after the season. He is part of a deep stable of Brewers outfielders that includes left fielder Ryan Braun and center fielder Carlos Gomez, plus up-and-comers Logan Schafer, Khris Davis and Caleb Gindl.