Nationals’ search for center fielder may lead to Norichika Aoki

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Dating back to the trading deadline the Nationals have been searching for a long-term solution in center field and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that they could turn to Japanese star Norichika Aoki if other options fall through.

Aoki is expected to be posted for bidding by the Yakult Swallows at some point later this month, so the Nationals would have to submit the highest bid for his exclusive negotiating rights and then work out a separate contract with the 29-year-old outfielder.

Aoki is a lifetime .330 hitter in Japan, but the speedy left-handed hitter batted a career-low .292 with just four homers this season and has reached 20 homers just once. At best he projects as a potential leadoff man, but he may end up being a better fit at the bottom of the lineup.

Report: Astros, Alex Bregman agree to five-year, $100 million extension

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Fox 26’s Mark Berman reports that the Astros and third baseman Alex Bregman have agreed to $100 million contract extension. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart confirms a deal has been reached and adds that the deal is actually for five years, beginning after the 2019 season. The contract will cover all three of Bregman’s arbitration years and two years of would-be free agency.

Bregman, who turns 25 years old later this month, has quickly become one of the best third basemen in baseball. Across parts of three seasons, he has hit .282/.366/.500 with 58 home runs, 208 RBI, 224 runs scored, and 29 stolen bases. FanGraphs credited him with 7.6 Wins Above Replacement, tied with Francisco Lindor and Christian Yelich for the fourth-best mark among position players in baseball, trailing only Mookie Betts (10.4), Mike Trout (9.8), and José Ramírez (8.0).

This is obviously a smart move for the Astros, as this contract extension will secure Bregman’s age 25-30 seasons. With second baseman José Altuve also locked up through 2024, and presumed extensions to come for Carlos Correa and possibly Gerrit Cole and George Springer, the Astros have a core that they can build around for years to come.