San Francisco Giants Decline Nori Aoki’s 2016 Option
In a move I don’t agree with, the Giants have elected not to exercise Nori Aoki‘s $5.5 million 2016 option, instead electing to pay him a $700,000 buy-out. Fangraphs values Aoki’s 2015 performance at $11.7M and says he has never been worth less than $11.1M in any of his four MLB seasons. You may not agree with Fangraphs’ valuations, but they do base them on rational formulas, and it’s hard to imagine that Aoki is not worth half the Fangraphs’ valuations, which is what $5.5M roughly represents.
The Giants also elected not to exercise Marlon Byrd’s $8M option, but this makes a lot more sense to me for a number of reasons. Byrd is 4.5 years older than Aoki, and Byrd is a lot less likely to command $8M on the open market than Aoki is to command $5.5M.
Of course, the Giants may be willing to bring either of them back if they can be signed for less than their option amounts, less their buy-outs. In Byrd’s case, that is a certainty. In Aoki’s, I’m not so sure. The Giants are clearly hoping that Aoki’s age, lack of power, and small stature will keep his free agent value down. In my mind, Aoki at $5M for one season would be an attractive option for teams like the Oakland A’s or the Tampa Rays.
The Giants are reportedly trying to clear salary space to make a run at one of the top free agent pitchers on the market this off-season. While the Giants could certainly use another top starter, what with the flame-outs of everyone but Madison Bumgarner, you always have to pay way over value for a top free agent, while Aoki’s one-year option is almost certainly a bargain.
I recently read that the Giants might be interested in Zack Greinke. I could see Greinke wanting to pitch in San Francisco if the Giants can beat the Dodgers’ offer. Boy, is that going to take a lot of money.
What the Giants are clearly relying on is that there will be other bargain-rate 4th outfielder options out there, even if they don’t re-sign Aoki. For example, Jonny Gomes had his $3M option declined by the Royals today and could possibly be signed for $1M-$2M, given his age and unimpressive overall offensive performance the last two seasons. The Giants are always looking for right-handed hitting power bats off the bench, and Gomes is a local boy.