Is it late enough in the season to begin judging moves from this last offseason? I believe it is, and I’ve already begun reminding everyone just how awful it was to lose Emilio Bonifacio. We need all the optimism we can get lately though, so I’ll officially start the judgment by looking at the acquisition of outfielder and lead-off man, Nori Aoki.
Only Eric Hosmer has as high of a batting average in as many at-bats as Nori this season, but base hits are just one of many ways Aoki helps his team. Aside from being third on the team in hits and walks, he leads the Royals in runs scored and sacrifice bunts. Hosmer leads the team in total pitches seen over Nori by six, but Hosmer also has 13 more at-bats this season.
Dexter Fowler was a name suggested often in Royals offseason talk, but would KC be better suited signing Fowler or trading for Aoki? It’s hard to say- a prototypical lead-off hitter is important and gives his team a somewhat immeasurable advantage, while Fowler’s impact on his team is far more palpable. In his 192 at-bats with Houston this year, Fowler has 16 RBI and three homers, but he strikes out far more often than Nori and posts a lower overall batting average.
Fowler and Nori fill two very different roles for their respective teams, so deciding which guy KC should have sought is a foggy endeavor. I should also mention that Fowler has a base salary in 2014 of $7.35 million, compared to the $1.95 million due to Nori this season. That’s no small difference for a small-market club.
In my opinion, KC made the right move with the knowledge at their disposal, meaning that they couldn’t predict the struggles of Billy Butler, the team’s best hitter, and others in the middle of the batting order. For now, Nori’s achievements will be continually belittled by the other Royals bats that have yet to catch fire, but that’s not his fault.