Brewers trade Norichika Aoki to Royals for Will Smith

Maddie Meyer

The Brewers have traded versatile outfielder Norichika Aoki to the Royals in exchange for left-handed pitcher Will Smith.

The Brewers and Royals have struck a deal that will send outfielder Norichika Aoki to Kansas City and left-handed pitcher Will Smith to Milwaukee, according to Ken Rosenthal.

The move shores up areas of weakness for both teams, as Aoki gives the Royals versatility (he can play all three outfield positions) and an ability to get on base (his career OBP is .355). In addition, Royals right fielders hit all of .254/.304/.392 in 2013, 17 percent below-average according to Baseball-Reference -- while Aoki's bat is just average for the position, that's still a huge step forward for the Royals, and it doesn't even begin to count his high-quality defense.

Smith is a versatile arm that has experience starting and success in the bullpen. The Brewers see him as a starter and he will come to camp as one, according to Tom Haudricourt. They like that he has experience in the bullpen, too, should starting not work out. The Royals moved Smith to the bullpen halfway through the 2013 season and reaped immediate dividends, as he posted a 3.24 ERA with an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.1.

Aoki came to the Brewers in 2012 from the Yakult Swallows of NPB. He played well, finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in the NL. He provides little in the power department (he has slugged .399 in his two years with the Brewers) but he gets on base and plays good defense. He will make only $1.95 million in 2014 before being eligible for arbitration for the first time.

The move comes as rumors swirl that the Royals have a three-year, $48 million offer out to Carlos Beltran. The addition of Aoki likely won't preclude them from signing Beltran, but it could have implications on the future of Billy Butler. Rosenthal notes that trading Butler was always an option, but getting Aoki and potentially Beltran as well makes a Butler trade "even more likely." Beltran, who will be 37 in the first year of any free agent deal, could use time at designated hitter to extend his career and effectiveness, and Butler could very well end up bringing in another significant piece to the contention-hopeful Royals.

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