Brewers trade Aoki, likely means Braun to RF
The Kansas City Royals acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki from
Milwaukee to be their leadoff hitter Thursday, which also means the
Brewers are likely to shift Ryan Braun to right field.
Milwaukee received left-hander Will Smith, who spent most of the
past couple seasons shuffling between Kansas City and Triple-A
Omaha, and between the bullpen and the starting rotation.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore on a conference call that he
envisions Aoki batting at the top of the order, just as he did with
the Brewers, which would allow Alex Gordon to slide down into an
RBI-producing role. Aoki hit .286 with eight homers, 37 RBIs and 20
steals last season.
Aoki, who turns 32 next month, also ranked second in the majors
with 40 infield hits, and .339 against left-handed pitching, the
best average by a left-handed hitter in the big leagues. He struck
out just 40 times in 674 plate appearances.
”We like his energy, we like his work ethic. He’s a pro,”
Moore said. ”We had a chance to see him a lot in Japan coming up.
… We’ll see how it plays out.”
Aoki, who is in the last year of his contract, is due $1.25
million this season. He can also make up to $1,087,500 in
performance bonuses based on starts and games played.
The Royals already bolstered their rotation this offseason by
agreeing to a four-year, $32 million deal with Jason Vargas. Now
they’ve acquired the leadoff hitter they have long coveted.
Moore said he’s still working on adding an impact bat,
especially in the outfield. Veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who
began his career with the Royals, spent time in Kansas City earlier
this week. He’s reportedly seeking a three-year, $48 million
”They’re far and few,” Moore said. ”That being said, that’s
an area we’re trying to pursue, but let me say this, we definitely
feel all our offensive players are still improving. They have not
reached their peak performance. They’re going to continue to get
By moving Aoki, the Brewers could head into next season with
rookie Khris Davis in left field, Gold Glove-winner Carlos Gomez in
center and Braun in right. Braun is expected back after his
season-ending, 65-game suspension for violating Major League
Baseball’s anti-drug agreement. Davis emerged down the stretch last
season, filling in for Braun in left by hitting .279 with 11
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin had said in late September
there were discussions within the organization about whether to
move Braun across the outfield.
”The thinking is it’s a little easier to find left fielders
than it is right fielders,” Melvin said. ”If you’re trying to
field right field with a platoon situation, then both guys have to
be able to throw well. Both guys have to be good defenders.”
Melvin said he’s been watching Smith for a couple years. He
called Smith a ”24-year-old, big, physical left-hander who we feel
can be part of our staff.”
The Brewers finished last season with five right-handed
starters, headlined by Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse, and Smith
gives them an option for a left-hander to slot into the rotation.
He went 6-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 16 starts two years ago.
Smith went 8-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 35 games, including 17
starts, during his time in Kansas City. He was 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA
last year, with 43 strikeouts in 33 innings, pitching primarily in
Smith said Thursday that while he developed a slider to
complement his fastball during relief work, ”I am excited to get a
shot back in the rotation.”
And yes, he’s preparing to hear a fresh round of jokes from his
new team about sharing the same name as the famous Hollywood
”I get them all the time,” the easygoing Smith said in a
conference call. ”I think I’m just learning to live with it …
It’s all good.”
The Royals’ deep bullpen ultimately made Smith expendable.
”I feel like our team is improved with the signing of Jason
Vargas and the trade for Nori,” Moore said, ”knowing full well
we’re going to have to continue to look for ways to improve if
we’re going to win a world championship. I don’t view this move as
us being complete.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contributed
to this report.