The Brewers traded veteran outfielder Norichika Aoki to the Royals for lefthander Will Smith. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told BA correspondent Tom Haudricourt the team had been looking at Smith for a “couple of years,” and envisions him as a “member of our staff.”
Aoki could get the starting nod in right field for the Royals, where David Lough is listed at the top of the depth chart. Lough, though, lacks Aoki’s on-base skills and track record.
Nori Aoki, rf
Age: 31. Bats: L.
Remaining commitment: Under terms of his contract, Aoki can become a free agent after the 2014 season, during which he’ll earn $1.9 million.
Aoki fits well in the framework of the Royals as a patient hitter who could move into the leadoff spot, allowing left fielder Alex Gordon to move down in the order. His power fell off in 2013, but he still posted a solid .287/.356/.370 batting line and has played an excellent right field. Moreover, Aoki’s .356 on-base percentage in 2013 would have ranked second on the Royals to only DH Billy Butler. Kansas City finished with a below-league-average .315 OBP this year.
Will Smith, lhp
Service time: 0.155. Options used: 2/3.
Smith spent the majority of his pro career as a starter in the Angels and Royals systems until 2013 when he flourished in the Kansas City bullpen. He struck out 11.6 batters per nine innings as part of a strong Royals relief corps, relying on low-90s velocity and two distinct breaking balls. Smith performed better versus lefthanders in the big leagues—holding them to a batting line of .157/.204/.353—but he held his own against righties, too, suggesting he could be more than a situational option.