Free-agent outfielder Norichika Aoki has agreed to a three-year deal to return to Japan with the Yakult Swallows, according to reports from both the Kyodo Times and Japan Times.
Aoki, who recently turned 36, hit .277/.335/.393 with five homers and 10 steals in 109 games split between the Astros, Blue Jays and Mets in 2017. He earned a World Series ring for his time with Houston (70 games) despite being shipped to Toronto at the trade deadline in July.
Aoki spent the first eight seasons of his professional career with Yakult from 2004 to 2011 before making the jump to the majors and joining the Brewers in 2012. He has spent time with Milwaukee, Kansas City, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Toronto and New York over the course of a six-year major-league career, posting a .285/.350/.387 line in that span.
Aoki isn’t the first Asian-born player to return to his home country this winter, as Jae-gyun Hwang and Hyun-soo Kim both returned to Korea after some time in the states.