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.

Giants making Brandon Belt available

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Giants have made first baseman Brandon Belt available in a trade and says that several teams have expressed interest in him.

Which is kind of weird, really.

Belt turns 31 early next season. He hit .253/.342/.414 with 14 homers over 112 games last year due to a knee injury and time lost to an appendectomy. He has a history of concussions and has averaged only 115 games over the last five seasons. Oh, and makes $48 million over the next three years.

Yes, he could be a very useful player if healthy, but taking on that kind of money, even a part of that money, when many very affordable first base/DH options are out there on the market makes little sense to me. Matt Adams. Justin Bour. Lucas Duda. As good as Belt? No, I don’t think so. But way cheaper and requiring less of a commitment.

But hey, rumors are rumors. Let a thousand flowers bloom.