HOUSTON -- For days after the Blue Jays released him last week, Norichika Aoki stayed close to home, working out in a park near his Toronto apartment. He coveted another big league opportunity. So when the Mets called, Aoki jumped at the chance, agreeing to terms on Friday night and boarding a plane the following morning.
With their four top outfielders either injured or traded, the Mets acquired Aoki to provide a necessary measure of depth. He arrived at Minute Maid Park during the Mets' 12-8 loss to the Astros in Game 1 of their doubleheader on Saturday, then started in right field in Game 2. Leading off, he finished 1-for-5 with an infield single in a 4-1 loss.
"I can see he hasn't played in a few days, I can tell you that," manager Terry Collins said. "I've seen him enough to know what kind of a player he is. He'll be fine. We've just got to get him some at-bats."
Aoki should receive plenty of those with the Mets. The 35-year-old hit .274 with five home runs in 83 combined games for the Astros and Blue Jays this season. Toronto released him on Tuesday, freeing the Mets to sign him.
"We'll put him in different spots, and different spots in the order," Collins said. "It gives us another legitimate guy that we can move around out there. ... It's nice to get a big league player."
"It's just a move that, given our recent injury situation in the outfield, we were looking to add a little more depth and give us another option out there for Terry," assistant general manager John Ricco said.
Coming to the Majors from his native Japan in 2012, Aoki finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting that season, batting .288 with 10 home runs, 30 stolen bases and a .787 OPS for the Brewers. But he never again replicated that success, hitting just 23 homers over his next four-plus seasons with six teams.
"This is my third team this year," Aoki said through an interpreter. "It just feels like everything is happening so fast."
Aoki figures to play mostly right field, which Brandon Nimmo and Travis Taijeron have handled since the team traded Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson last month. Starting outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto are both out for the season, offering plenty of chances for Aoki to contribute. The Mets have needed outfield help so badly that they recently started career infielder Jose Reyes in left.
Aoki will be arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter, keeping him under team control for 2018. But the Mets could choose to non-tender him rather than pay a raise over the $5.5 million he is making this season.