HOUSTON -- The Astros made their first roster move of the offseason Thursday by claiming veteran outfielder Norichika Aoki off waivers from Seattle. A left-handed bat with a high contact rate, Aoki figures to be in the mix to platoon as a leadoff option for the Astros in 2017.
Aoki, a native of Japan, batted .283 with 24 doubles, four triples, four homers and 28 RBIs with a .349 on-base percentage last season in 118 games. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Aoki's versatility in the outfield, solid on-base percentage and low strikeout rate (once every 10.38 plate appearances in 2016) made him an attractive option to add to the outfield mix.
"That complements the type of hitters we have out there," Luhnow said. "We have a lot of guys who put the ball over the fence who tend to strike out a lot. He's a nice contact hitter for [manager] A.J. [Hinch] to put somewhere in the lineup, whether it's an everyday basis or platoon situation. All those things will work out as we go through the offseason and see who we bring in and what trades we make, but right now he's a good guy to have on our team."
Aoki, who's arbitration eligible and has two years of team control remaining, played primarily left field (88 starts) last season, but made 14 starts in center. He ranked second among American League outfielders in fielding percentage.
The Astros figure to add more left-handed bats to their right-handed-dominant lineup this winter, and Aoki gives them flexibility while not handicapping any other moves they might want to make. Luhnow said the Astros nearly signed Aoki before coming to terms with Colby Rasmus two years ago.
Meanwhile, Luhnow said the Astros would decide Friday on whether to pick up the 2017 options for relief pitcher Pat Neshek and catcher/designated hitter Evan Gattis.
The Astros are likely to pick up the $5.2 million option of Gattis, who would go to arbitration if the team decided not to exercise the option. He hit .251 with 32 homers and 72 RBIs in 128 games split between catcher and designated hitter last season.
Neshek appeared in 60 games last season and posted a 3.06 ERA in his second year in Houston. He has a $6.5 million option for next season with a $500,000 buyout and would become a free agent if the Astros decline the option, which is likely.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.