October 2013

Brewers exercise Aoki option

In a move long forecast by Brewers officials, the club earlier this month exercised outfielder Norichika Aoki’s 2014 club option, guaranteeing the former Japanese batting champion just shy of $2 million next season.

Aoki originally signed in January 2012 for two years plus an option, a cost-effective leap of faith for a Brewers club that never scouted him in person. He emerged as the everyday right fielder in 2012 after injuries necessitated Corey Hart’s move to first base, then reprised that role in 2013 while batting leadoff.

In all, Aoki has batted .287 with a .356 on-base percentage, 18 home runs, 50 stolen bases and 161 runs scored in his first 306 games in the U.S. Major Leagues. Those accomplishments pushed the price of his 2014 option, originally set at $1.5 million, to more than $1.9 million, according to a baseball source, with incentives that could boost his 2014 earnings to over $3 million.

The Brewers formally exercised the option on Oct. 8 and announced it Tuesday.

“Nori has been an outstanding teammate, outstanding member of the community,” Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said during the final series of the regular season. “He’s always willing to help out, doing things in the community. And one of the toughest outs in the Major Leagues. That’s a matter of fact. He’s very tough to get out.”

Aoki’s name appeared sparingly in trade rumors earlier this year, and figures to appear again in 2014 because he is a free agent after the season. He is part of a deep stable of Brewers outfielders that includes left fielder Ryan Braun and center fielder Carlos Gomez, plus up-and-comers Logan Schafer, Khris Davis and Caleb Gindl.

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Green re-signs on Minors deal

The Brewers on Monday re-signed infielder Taylor Green to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training camp, an opportunity for Green to re-establish himself after missing all of 2013 with a hip injury.

Green, who turns 27 in November, would earn $501,000 in the Major Leagues, according to agent Joshua Kusnick.

Kusnick said the deal cannot be terminated before May 22, and includes a pair of opt-outs. If Green is not on the 40-man roster by June 15, the Brewers have 48 hours to contact the 29 other teams to see if one will add Green to its own 40-man. If a team accepts, the Brewers would release Green. Green can also opt-out to take a contract in Asia; the Brewers would get $150,000 is Green signs such a deal before Dec. 15 and $300,000 after that date.

A two-time Brewers Minor League Player of the Year, Green has batted .207/.266/.343 in 158 Major League plate appearances. In the Minors, he has batted .289 with a .370 on-base percentage, 78 home runs and 431 RBIs in 692 games over parts of seven seasons. He underwent surgery in late April to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.

Green was removed from Milwaukee’s crowded 40-man roster earlier this month and would have been free to sign with any other team after the World Series, but opted to remain with the Brewers in part, according to Kusnick, out of loyalty to general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash. The Brewers also offer opportunity; Mat Gamel, a similar player to Green, was claimed off waivers this month by the Cubs, and 35-year-old starting third baseman Aramis Ramirez has only one year left on his contract.

The Brewers have already invited four non-roster players to next year’s big league Spring Training camp: Green, fellow infielders Hector Gomez and Eugenio Velez, and catcher Robinzon Diaz.

Kusnick also represents left-hander Zach Kroenke, who has agreed to terms with the Brewers on a Minor League contract that does not include a big league camp invite. Like Green, Kroenke would earn $501,000 in the Majors. The 29-year-old left-hander was 5-16 with a 4.51 ERA in 32 appearances, 19 starts for Triple-A Nashville last season.

The Kroenke contract was not yet finalized as of Monday night, but could be completed by Tuesday.

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Source says Gamel, Green on waivers

Brewers infielders Mat Gamel and Taylor Green are on waivers today and would come off Milwaukee’s crowded 40-man roster on Thursday if they clear, according to a baseball source.

Neither player saw the field during the 2013 season. Gamel, penciled in as the starting first baseman for the second straight year after Corey Hart underwent a January knee surgery, re-tore the ACL in his right knee during the Brewers’ first full-squad workout of Spring Training. He has not played a regular season game since 2011 and would have been arbitration-eligible had he remained on the roster, even though he’s amassed only 240 Major League at-bats.

Green, the next man on the depth chart at first base when Gamel had his setback, was lost later in the spring to a left hip injury that also required surgery. He will be 27 in November and could still be attractive to the Brewers on a Minor League deal because he can play first base, which remains wide open, and third base, where Aramis Ramirez is heading into the final year of his contract.

By rule, Brewers officials cannot discuss players on the waiver wire.

Both Gamel and Green are currently on the Brewers’ 60-day disabled list, along with Corey Hart, who will be a free agent, and Rickie Weeks, who will have to be reinstated to a 40-man roster. That roster is currently full, but will see some relief when free agents Yuniesky Betancourt and Michael Gonzalez are removed after the World Series.

That still leaves the Brewers with some big decisions before Nov. 20, the date by which teams must add certain prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from December’s Rule 5 Draft. Among the prospects under discussion are first basemen Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers, the franchise’s last two Minor League Players of the Year.

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