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.

Fried, Braves go to salary arbitration for 2nd straight year

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Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitcher Max Fried went to salary arbitration with the Atlanta Braves for the second straight year, asking for $15 million instead of the team’s $13.5 million offer.

The 29-year-old left-hander went 14-7 for the second straight season and lowered his ERA to 2.48 from 3.04 in 2021. Fried was a first-time All-Star last season, was second to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara in Cy Young Award voting and was third in the National League in ERA behind Alcantara and Julio Urias with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Fried won a $6.85 million salary last year instead of the team’s $6.6 million proposal in arbitration. That was after he pitched six shutout innings in World Series Game 6 as the Braves won their first title since 1995.

Fried, who is eligible for free agency after the 2024 World Series, had his case heard Friday by a panel that’s expected to issue a decision Saturday.

Players have won two of three decisions so far: Pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Miami Marlins. But Seattle defeated Diego Castillo ($2.95 million).

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe, whose case was argued Monday. About 20 more cases are scheduled through Feb. 17.