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Nori Aoki returns to Japan on a three-year deal with the Yakult Swallows

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Nori Aoki has agreed to a three-year contract with with the Yakult Swallows of the NPB. He’ll make $9.19 million over that span. He played the first eight seasons of his career with Yakult as well.

Probably a smart deal for Aoki who, despite proving himself in Major League Baseball over the past six seasons with a .285/.350/.387 line, was not getting much interest on the free agent market and likely would’ve had to settle for a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Even if he made a team on such a deal he’d likely make only around a million bucks and now he’s guaranteed more than triple that for the next three years.

Aoki, who is 36, played over 758 games in his big league career in stints with the Brewers, where he had his most success, and th Royals, Mariners, Giants, Astros, Mets, and Blue Jays.

Rays acquire C.J. Cron from Angels

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The Rays have acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Angels for a player to be named later, the teams announced Saturday. In a corresponding move, the Rays cleared a roster spot for Cron by designating outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment.

Cron wasn’t expected to factor prominently in the Angels’ plans for 2018, especially given the recent addition of pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani and the projected Luis Valbuena/Albert Pujols combo at first base. The 28-year-old infielder wasn’t overly impressive during his fourth season in Anaheim, either, slashing .248/.305/.437 with 16 home runs and 0.5 fWAR through 373 plate appearances in 2017. He’ll give the Rays a platoon option with fellow first baseman Brad Miller, though neither Cron nor Miller have looked particularly adept against left-handed pitching lately.

Dickerson, meanwhile, is coming off of a banner season with the Rays. The 29-year-old outfielder enjoyed his first All-Star nomination in 2017, rounding out the year with a .282/.325/.490 batting line and career-best 27 home runs and 2.6 fWAR in 629 PA. Some have already speculated that a trade is in the works; barring that, it’s a head-scratching move to make considering his clear offensive value to the team.