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.

Félix Hernández to rejoin Mariners’ rotation for final start of 2018

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Mariners starter Félix Hernández will come off of the disabled list to make his final start of 2018 on Wednesday against the Athletics, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. Hernández has been on the disabled list since September 8 with a right hamstring strain.

Hernández, 32, has endured the worst season of his 14-year career. He’s 8-13 with a 5.46 ERA and a 121/57 K/BB ratio over 151 2/3 innings. Hernández wants the opportunity to finish 2018 on a good note. He said, “I feel good. No problems. It’s 100 percent. I just want to finish strong and show them I can still pitch. It wasn’t a big injury. They just wanted to give me some rest.”

Hernández is under contract for one more year at $27 million. He has been the face of the franchise for the last decade, but if he doesn’t show he’s capable of beating major league hitters by the end of spring training next year, the Mariners may not be able to afford to give him a spot in the starting rotation. Despite a second-half slide, the Mariners were competitive in the AL West this year, entering the All-Star break 58-39, five games out of first place. With some roster fine-tuning, the Mariners could give the Astros and Athletics a run for their money. Hernández’s involvement with that effort remains to be seen.