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Brewers trade Norichika Aoki to Royals for Will Smith

Dec 5, 2013, 11:11 AM EDT

norichika aoki getty Getty Images

Kansas City has a new starting outfielder, as the Royals announced that they’ve acquired Norichika Aoki from the Brewers for left-hander Will Smith.

Aoki has been a tremendous bargain for Milwaukee since coming over from Japan two seasons ago, playing nearly every day and hitting .287 with a .355 on-base percentage, 50 steals, and quality outfield defense while earning just $3 million total.

He’s under contract for just $2 million in 2014, so it’s a little surprising that the Brewers couldn’t get more for him than the 24-year-old Smith. While certainly not a bad young pitcher, Smith has a 4.76 ERA through 123 career innings and shifted to the bullpen this year after looking like little more than a potential back-of-the-rotation starter based on his minor-league track record.

Perhaps that’s the going rate for a good, cheap 31-year-old outfielder and the move does clear room for Khris Davis to play regularly for the Brewers after the 25-year-old slugged 11 homers in his 56-game debut.

  1. darthicarus - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Well, at least now the Brewers can get jiggy with it while wearing their sunglasses at night. I hope Will takes a taxi to the stadium too.

    • historiophiliac - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      Welcome to Milwaukee/Bienvenido a Milwaukee

    • Caught Looking - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      The Brewers like their Prince’s. They had Prince Fielder and now they have the Fresh Prince.

      • historiophiliac - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        Padres just don’t understand.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        They can go out and sign DJ Jazzy Jeff Francouer if he is lonely in Beer town

      • darthicarus - Dec 5, 2013 at 1:14 PM

        Now this is the story all about how
        My life got flipped, turned upside down
        And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
        I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a park called Mil-ler

        In west Kansas City groomed and played
        On the ball field where I spent most of my days
        Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
        And all throwing some meat balls outside of the ‘pen
        When a couple of guys, they were up to no good
        Started making trouble in my ball yard
        I got in one little jam and my GM got scared
        And said “You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Mil-ler”

        I whistled for a cab and when it came near the
        License plate said “fresh” and had a dice in the mirror
        If anything I could say that this cab was rare
        But I thought nah, forget it, yo homes to Mil-ler!

        I pulled up to the park about seven or eight
        And I yelled to the cabby “Yo, homes smell you later!”
        Looked at my kingdom I was finally there
        To sit on my mound as the prince of Mil-ler

  2. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Makes the Yankees signing Ellsbury for ALL of the money look even better in context. /s

    • proudlycanadian - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      I saw the sarcasm font.

    • paperlions - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      Right, because Aoki, a RFer with less defensive values, less power, and a lower OBP, is exactly the same has Ellsbury.

      That is like saying the Cardinals are smart because they got an Ellsbury clone for only $1M and David Freese since Bouros is a better base runner and defender than Ellsbury and has similar “durability”, he just can’t hit quite as well.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        It is about market price in context.

        Ellsbury > Aoki.

        I don’t think Ellsbury is 10x > Aoki, but he will make 10x more in 2014.

        As for your Cardinals scenario, I would say Ellsbury is definitely > Bourjos, but Bourjos + $152MM > Ellsbury

      • paperlions - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:09 PM

        Of course, that is always true.

        Wong + $180M > Cano

        But that isn’t how the market works…..and it always depends on what you spend the money on.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 5, 2013 at 4:13 PM

        Depends on the years. I would rather have Cano for 7-10 years/$180 than Wong plus the cash.

  3. felser - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    I think you are greatly understating Smith. He was very impressive out of the bullpen for KC last year. 33 IP, 43/7 K/BB ratio, 0.93 WHIP.

    • felser - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      And Aoki had noticable regressions last season in power and base stealing.

  4. spudchukar - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Maybe the Brewers have confidence Smith can move into the #5 starting slot. He did post some fairly effective numbers in the minors, but with Kansas City’s dearth of starting pitching it is hard to see how they could move him if they believed he could start.

    But if the Brewers plan on him being a lefty long reliever, it is hard to see how he is worth Aoki. Kansas City meanwhile, gets a pretty good, relatively cheap player, but with Dyson, Cain, and Lough it certainly clogs up things especially if they still believe they can land Beltran, unless they see him as a DH exclusively, something he may not be happy doing.

    In the end it is hard to justify the move for either team.

    • sportsdrenched - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      Cain has trouble staying healthy is the only thing I can think of. I’m still confused by why this trade was made. Dayton being Dayton I guess.

      • spudchukar - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM

        As a Cardinal fan, the Brewers are a team that are a concern. If they can add a lefty first baseman, and there a number out there, and at least 1 more starter they could easily be the second best team in the NL Central, and that is a division that was arguably as good as any in 2013, and make 4 teams viable contenders.

      • paperlions - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        Weird. I foresee the Brewers being the last place NL Central team for a while. Their system is in horrible shape right now. They have a limited capacity to spend and are among the worst teams in terms of MLB-level talent. With their budget, they need to develop players, and their minor league system is probably among the 3 worst (along with the Angels and White Sox) right now.

      • uwsptke - Dec 5, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        I can understand sentiments that they have a poor farm system at the upper levels, but a team that has Lucroy, Segura, and Gomez playing up the middle at the premium defensive positions while also contributing with the bat and still have Braun and Ramirez is probably not “among the worst teams in terms of MLB-level talent.”

        Their pitching, on the other hand, is an absolute and unmitigated disaster.

      • brewcitybummer - Dec 5, 2013 at 1:40 PM

        Weak at the upper levels is Brewers rhetoric. Their system is pathetic up and down. Their 2nd highest rated prospect, Tyrone Taylor, didn’t make BA’s Midwest League top 20. Think about that. There is no significant reinforcement coming anytime soon.

      • jrobitaille23 - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:02 PM

        lol at Paperlions…what a clown. Brewers can easily compete with that offense. If Smith does move in to the rotation and they can solidify their bullpen, or if Smith helps their bullpen and they can find a starter, they could make some noise.

      • paperlions - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        The Brewers will probably be worse this year than they were last year. Yes, they have some nice players and a bunch of holes in the lineup, and no pitching to speak of….and there is no help coming any time soon via FA or from the minors. They are an organization in rough shape that seems to have no plan as to how to fix it.

      • mayorrobford - Dec 5, 2013 at 2:36 PM

        I’d consider the clown to be the guy who thinks the Brewers just need a lil of this and a lil of that to make some noise.

        You’re basing this on the idea that Segura and his tiny sample size, along with Gomez and his 1st excellent season with the bat? Do Brewer fans need to be reminded that Segura batted a .241/.315/.583 line the second half of the season?

        You need a lot more than a lil of this and some of that, you’re going to need a lot of pitching you don’t have and you’re going to need more career seasons from your hitters. The Brewers aren’t going anywhere, and all I’m reading a a ton of fanboy homerisms.

      • paul1990 - Dec 5, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        Team really needed a lead off hitter….needed to get Gordon in a spot to drive in runs. Makes sense….

      • spudchukar - Dec 5, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        No doubt the Brewers starting staff is currently weak. And one would be silly to argue that they have anything of value in the immediate pipeline, but that doesn’t change their line-up which is worrisome to this Cards fan.

        Maybe Segura and Gomez don’t reach 2013 levels but they are now solid players at important positions, and both are likely to be All-Star contenders. Add Lucroy to the mix, and you have 3 above average players at the 3 most difficult positions.

        And while Ramirez has difficulty staying healthy and isn’t anything special with the glove, he is still a dangerous hitter, in a friendly park.

        Perhaps Braun’s numbers were always inflated due to PEDs. Who knows, how much they aid, and how long he consumed them. Anyway, I don’t know a team in Baseball that wouldn’t covet his bat in their line-up.

        I do have serious doubts about Davis. His minor league numbers do not support his last couple of month’s production. Which is why the Aoki move still doesn’t make sense to me.

        First base is an issue, but there are a plethora of options currently available and certainly within financial reach. Even someone like the now ex-Pirate Jones is an upgrade and would augment a dangerous line-up.

        Ginnett rounds out the group and from what I’ve seen may be at least a league average second baseman.

        To me that gives the Brewers the second best line-up in the NL Central.

        Gallardo can’t be as bad as 2013, and a full year of a healthy Lohse gives them two viable starters. Peralta has the stuff, he just needs to harness his emotions, and maybe that comes with age. The rest of the starters aren’t really MLB quality in my mind and forget Helweg cause he cannot find the plate.

        I figure the Brewers will land both another starter and somebody like Jones, and admittedly they need two more starters, like Feldman and probably won’t procure both, and will be stuck with a pretty bad #5.

        Henderson can close, the pen is serviceable if not great. But the offense should carry the day, and make them a .500 team, and who knows maybe they add some salary and another starter if they are in contention by the break. I say they can be trouble.

  5. phillysports1 - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Milwaukee needs Beltran now

  6. darthicarus - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    This trade also shifts Braun from LF to RF. For those who feel the need to heckle Braun when the team goes on the road plan your ticket purchases accordingly.

    • xdj511 - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      Oh man, my first game ever at Camden Yards in the spring of ’94 was against KC and it was like Vince Coleman’s third game back after the firecracker incident with the Mets the previous year. We were sitting in left field very close to the field by the foul pole. We heckled him like crazy. I believe the O’s won the game on a walkoff homer in the 10th that passed less than 20 feet from us, which gave us all the added thrill of a very brief glance of ourselves celebrating during the highlights on ESPN the next morning, you know, when people used to watch ESPN.

  7. sdemp - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    So the Brewers picked up another AAAA pitcher who can’t start, don’t they have enough of those guys already!?

    Aoki is far more valuable than this schmuck. The Brewers now created another position of need (leadoff hitter) without filling a need.

    And yes, the Brewers don’t need another average pitcher.

    • paul1990 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      Smith isn’t a Schmuck…..He’s 24 years old and learning how to pitch still. Guy was great out of the bullpen and learning. It’s evident you haven’t watched him past the last half of this past season. That….would make you the schmuck.

    • uwsptke - Dec 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      Aoki was already beginning to decline. At 31 and a pending free agent, he’s not in the plans. It’s not like they think they’re close to competing for a championship, so why not get something for him while opening up a spot every day for Khris Davis?

  8. phillysports1 - Dec 5, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    They have Juan francisco already at first Lefty power

  9. weaselpuppy - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Dyson and Lough are reserve OF and Cain can’t capitalize on his obvious talent (see Desmond Jennings, Dexter Fowler)

    Gordon Cain Aoki next year is a nice group. They have to get Duffy or Paulino or Ventura to be a big surprise if they aren’ytgoing to bump payroll to replace Santana, as Vargas is not for that, he’s for securing the back end w/o having to have it be a dead zone for schmucks like Chen and Hochevar(who at least looks like he has a career as a middle reliever)

  10. roanboon - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    I am not qualified to be a GM. I know nothing about Will Smith. What I do know is that when you need a player to put the baseball into play rather than popping up to third, no Brewer was better that Aoki on day-to-day basis. I hope someone is accountable for this move if Will Smith doesnt pan out…

    • paul1990 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      I think this move really sets up a trade for a starting pitcher. So, this may pan out.

  11. kcrobert10 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    I’m good with this move from a royals stand point. The guy has good obp, avg, sb and defensive metrics numbers and all we gave up for him was a guy who while was a nice arm was never going to be anything mor than a 4 or 5 guy. Right now we have plenty of those guys so why not solve our outfielder problem this way and not waste 16 million a yr on a 36 yr old Beltran. I agree cain does have a problem staying healthy. I don’t think Dyson is going to be around or even should be around for much longer and Lough (who has options) is a nice guy to keep in Omaha if someone gets hurt. So from my point of viewbb ur 4 of players are Gordon, cain, akoi, and Maxwell.

    • paul1990 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      I think this trade is setting up a bigger trade. We have a lot of outfielders and are in need of some starting pitching. Also, some salary room for a potential Beltran signing. I think he’s very interested in coming back to KC. Rumor has it (again, rumor) KC is the only team offering 3 years. Everyone else is looking at 2-years.

      I see Butler and some outfield going to Seattle for some pitching. They need bats.

      Something is going to happen at the Winter Meetings next week.

  12. paul1990 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    This does solve our true lead off hitter issue. We need Alex Gordon batting lower in the order to drive in runs. This guy can steal bases and play good defense. I think this sets up a situation where we can increase our run support. Speed kills.

  13. deathmonkey41 - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    The Brewers really traded for Will Smith??? Have they ever seen After Earth???

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