Nevertheless, the Brewers were willing to pay for that preview by signing Aoki, 30, to a two-year deal plus a club option for 2014. The deal is heavy on incentives, guaranteeing Aoki only $2.5 million over the two years (including the option buyout).
The Brewers paid the Yakult Swallows a posting fee of $2.5 million for the negotiating rights to Aoki.
"He's a guy that's had a lot of success in Japan," general manager Doug Melvin said. "He's won Gold Gloves, won batting titles, was an All-Star.
"We think he can utilize those skills on our ballclub and give us some depth in the outfield. He can play all three outfield positions, preferably in center field, left field."
If Aoki shows he can be a viable player in the majors, he could play a key role should All-Star left fielder Ryan Braun be suspended for the first 50 games of the season because of a positive test for a banned substance.
Braun and the Brewers were awaiting the verdict of an arbitration panel on that front.
Melvin noted that some hitters from Japan, such as Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, experienced success in the major leagues, but others came over and struggled.
Accordingly, he wants to see Aoki play in spring training before his exact role is determined.
"We'll wait and see," Melvin said. "We made a commitment to 'Nori.' I can't really answer that until I we seem him play in game conditions."
The Brewers' only in-person look at Aoki came during a workout in Phoenix on Jan. 8. Melvin said Aoki never asked how much playing time he might get and nothing was promised.
"He's confident he can come over and show us his skill set," Melvin said. "He's a confident player. He wants the challenge of playing here in major league baseball."
In a press conference in Japan after the deal was announced, the three-time batting champion also spoke of the challenge of seeing how his skills would play in the major leagues.
Aoki said he was "very happy" to get that opportunity and obviously took a financial risk to do so.
Aoki played eight years with Yakult, batting .329 with 84 home runs, 385 runs batted in and 164 stolen bases in 985 games. He batted over .300 in six of his seven full seasons and was Central League batting champion in 2005 (.344), 2007 (.346) and 2010 (.358).
He was 2005 Central League rookie of the year and a six-time Golden Glove Award winner.
Brewers Notes & Quotes
"It's easier when you get more softball teams calling you than baseball teams. And the softball teams want to DH for you." -- Counsell, on his decision to retire as a player and join the Brewers' front office.