Two recent signings strike me as tremendous bargains for their teams: the Giants just signed Sergio Romo, avoiding arbitration, for $1.575 million, and the Brewers just signed Norichicha Aoki for what espn.com reports is two years at $2.5 million plus incentives.
Romo has more than three years of major league experience under his belt, and he was arguably the best set-up man in the Senior Circuit over the last two seasons. To me, that’s worth a lot more than $1.575 million.
Actually, it’s probably only worth about $2.5 million, given his role and his experience, but everything is relative and the latter number is almost 60% more than the former number.
In the arbitration process, Romo requested $1.7 million and the Giants offered $1.3 million. The fact that the Giants quickly agreed to give him significantly more than splitting the difference suggests the Giants realized they dodged a bullet when Romo asked for as little as he did.
If you look at the numbers players and teams usually compromise at after each submits their arbitration proposals, teams rarely agree to more than merely splitting the difference. Usually, it’s the player who gives up a little more than the mid-point.
The deal the Brewers swung with Aoki for two years is apparently a whole lot less than the $4.25 million (330 million yen) the Yakult Swallows paid him in 2011. Espn quotes Aoki as saying, “I’m just happy to get the opportunity to play in the major leagues.”
In fact, the Brewers are reportedly even getting an option for a third year. Given how little Aoki is getting relative to what he could have gotten in Japan, it’s hard to imagine the third year, if exercised, isn’t a bargain for the Brewers too. (According to Jon Heyman, Aoki gets a total of $8.6 million over three years if the option is exercised and all the incentives are met — that’s small potatoes for a major league player.)
Actually, Aoki would have taken a pay cut in Japan in 2012, because his numbers were way down. However, a lot of that had to do with how much offense was down in NPB in 2011. Aoki’s .292 batting average, while almost 40 points below his career average, was good enough for 7th in the six-team Central League.
It’s also almost certain the Swallows had decided they couldn’t afford Aoki anymore. Otherwise, why would let your best player go for a $2.5 million posting fee?
The fact that Aoki is willing to accept considerably less money to play in the U.S. than he would likely have made staying in Japan, is in my mind a good sign for how he’ll perform here. One thing is certain, he doesn’t lack in confidence. I would bet he’s willing to take less money because he believes he’ll be a success and eventually make the kind of money Japanese players can only make playing in the States.
The biggest knock on Aoki is that he’s already 30 years old in 2012. Otherwise, I see him as a mini-Ichiro, at least in terms of having the same talent set. Given the very small amount of money the Brewers are going to paying him, I will be very surprised if they don’t come out way ahead on this signing when the contract is up.