BY SPNW Staff 09:12AM 12/02/2015

Mariners to sign free agent OF Aoki, add reliever

Nori Aoki, a free-agent outfielder whose career was briefly threatened in August after being struck in the head by a pitch, cutting short his season, will be signed by the Mariners to a one-year deal with an option for a second, according to several media reports. Aoki first must pass a physical exam.

Aoki, 33, a native of Japan who began his MLB career with two years in Milwaukee and a season with the American League champion Royals in 2014, signed with the Giants in 2015. On Aug. 9, he was hit by Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta. He played two more games before being put in the seven-day concussion protocol.

Aoki returned Aug. 20 but after 13 games was placed on the disabled list after experiencing after-effects of the blow. Aoki’s agent, Nez Balelo told CBSSports.com, “He feels great. He has been cleared medically. He’s 100 percent.”

Before his injury, he was hitting .305 with a .365 on-base percentage, the latter a key stat for general manager Jerry Dipoto as he remakes the Mariners into an offense less dependent on home runs.

He made $4 million last season with the Giants, who declined to pick up his option, perhaps in part because Aoki is considered a bit of a liability defensively.

Free agent reliever Justin De Fratus signs

A four-year veteran from the Phillies bullpen, free agent RHP Justin De Fratus, was signed Wednesday by the Mariners.

“Justin gives us another young, major league-ready arm in the mix for our bullpen,” GM Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “He brings us one step closer to the type of depth we believe is required to be truly competitive in this league.  Justin remains a young pitcher with good stuff who has been both durable and resilient as a major leaguer, while also being just one year removed from an excellent 2014 season.”

De Fratus, 28, has spent his entire career in the Philadelphia organization, drafted in the 11th round out of Ventura College (CA.) in 2007. The 6-4, 225-pound right-hander was signed by then-Phillies scout Tim Kissner, now the Mariners director of international operations.

De Fratus has been used exclusively as a relief pitcher from 2011-2015, making 191 appearances, including 173 over the past three years.  He was 0-2 with a 5.51 ERA in 61 appearances in 2015. His best season was 2014 when he was 3-2 with a 2.39 ERA for the Phillies in 54 appearances (12 walks and 49 strikeouts) with a 1.082 WHIP.


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