Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki to work out for Brewers this weekend

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Milwaukee secured exclusive negotiating rights to Norichika Aoki with a $2.5 million bid, but before talking contract with the Japanese outfielder they wanted to get a first-hand look at him.

According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that will happen this weekend in Arizona, where the Brewers will put Aoki through what general manager Doug Melvin called “a private workout.”

Presumably the Brewers scouted Aoki in Japan on a regular basis before submitting a $2.5 million bid for his negotiating rights and there’s only so much that can be learned from putting a player through some drills in person, but it’s surprising that teams haven’t requested similar workouts before signing Japanese players in the past.

Last offseason, for instance, the Twins committed $15 million to signing Tsuyoshi Nishioka and then within 48 hours of him showing up at spring training they were talking publicly about his lack of arm strength and unfamiliarity with some key aspects of middle infield defense.

Ryan Braun’s looming 50-game suspension could make the Brewers more motivated to sign Aoki, who’s a three-time batting champion in Japan and projects as a high-average, low-power hitter. He’s primarily been a center fielder in Japan, but would be an option to fill in for Braun in left field.

Mets sign Jose Lobaton to minor league deal

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The Mets signed catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, where it’s assumed Lobaton will be in the mix for a backup role behind Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.

Lobaton, 33, is coming off of a four-year stint with the Nationals. He put up his worst career numbers in 2017, producing -0.6 fWAR after slashing just .170/.248/.277 with four home runs in 158 plate appearances. While he’ll give the Mets little to work with at the plate, his near-decade of experience behind the dish should make him a decent emergency option, if nothing else.

In the meantime, the Mets are expected to roll with a d’Arnaud/Plawecki platoon to start the season. Both catchers saw slight upticks in value over the 2017 season: d’Arnaud turned in 0.8 fWAR after hitting a career-high 16 home runs, while Plawecki collected 0.6 fWAR and three homers after raising his batting line over the Mendoza Line for the first time since 2015.