The Kansas City Royals have acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for left-handed reliever Will Smith, according to a team announcement and first reported by the Royal Revival blog last night.
Aoki, who turns 32 in January, hit .286 with 8 HR and 37 RBIs while stealing 20 bases for Milwaukee in 2013. He will likely become the Royals' starting right fielder, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com notes that they still plan to pursue free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran. In theory, the team could move Aoki to center field, sign Beltran to play right field, and trade either Lorenzo Cain or Justin Maxwell this winter. Another possibility is a trade of designated hitter Billy Butler, with Beltran signing as the team's designated hitter and Aoki staying in right.
The Rangers have been linked to Aoki in the past, and rumors swirled this offseason about a potential Aoki-to-Mets swap for first baseman Ike Davis.
Aoki is a free agent after next season, and will earn under $2 million after the Brewers picked up his team option earlier in the offseason. The cost-effective move seems to be a good one for the Royals, who may be looking to spend big money elsewhere on players like Beltran.
Smith, 24, shifted to the bullpen for the Royals in 2013, posting a 2-1 record and 3.24 ERA in 33.1 innings of work. He is known for his high strikeout rate (11.6 K/9 in 2013) and groundball rate, and is under control through the 2019 season. For the Brewers, adding the southpaw to a bullpen that will be re-tooled this offseason after losing Mike Gonzalez, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford in recent months. The Brewers could look to add a late-inning reliever to the group, and continue their pursuit of a first baseman.