After a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Mariners are back to stoking the Hot Stove with free-agent outfielder Nori Aoki emerging as their latest possible target.
“At this point,” one industry source said, “there appears to be real interest (in Aoki) from the Mariners. Whether that leads to a deal is anybody’s guess.”
Aoki, 33, fits the Mariners’ new preferred profile as an athletic player with on-base skills. He has a .287 average and a .353 on-base percentage in four seasons since coming to the big leagues after eight seasons in Japan.
But he comes with some risk.
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Aoki finished last season on the disabled list because of post-concussion issues after being hit in the head Aug. 9 by a pitch from Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs.
While Aoki continued to play for a while after the incident, he eventually went to the disabled list in early September after experiencing light-headedness and remained there for the remainder of the season.
Concern over his recovery likely played a role in San Francisco’s decision not to exercise a $5.5 million option for next season. The Giants’ decision, announced Nov. 4, turned Aoki into a free agent.
Aoki also missed a month midway through last season because of a fracture in his right fibula (calf bone). In all, he played just 93 games, but he still matched his career norms with a .287 average and .353 OBP.
Prior to last season, Aoki averaged 146 games while playing for Milwaukee in 2012-13 and for Kansas City in 2014. He signed a one-year deal last January with the Giants for $4.7 million that included a club option.
The Mariners’ interest in Aoki comes after efforts to acquire outfielder Marcell Ozuna from Miami appeared to stall over the Marlins’ demand for pitcher Taijuan Walker in return.
Lefty swingman Vidal Nuno concluded his time last week at Aragua in Venezuela by going 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA in seven starts. Nuno planned all along to return home for Thanksgiving.
▪ Utilityman Pat Kivlehan, added recently to the 40-man roster, had hits in each of his first five games after joining Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.
▪ First baseman Kyle Petty, a 23rd-round pick in 2013, continues to rake for Adelaide in the Australian League. He is batting .372 in 22 games and leads the league with eight homers. Nobody else has more than four homers.
Tickets are now on sale for the Mariners’ 18th annual FanFest, which runs Jan. 30-31 at Safeco Field. They can be purchased at www.mariners.com or at Mariners’ team stores.
The cost is $10 for adults but ages 14 and under get in free. The closest team store to Tacoma is located at the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila.
The annual FanFest includes interaction with players, coaches and front-office personnel. Fans can also tour the Mariners’ clubhouse and take part in numerous interactive activities.
A list of club personnel scheduled to attend will be released at a later date.