Aoki trade made sense for both player, team

The Brewers acquired a left-handed pitcher on Thursday, and in the process reconfigured their outfield.

The trade of Norichika Aoki to the Royals for left-hander Will Smith netted the Brewers a 24-year-old pitcher who will compete in Spring Training as a starter for an outfielder and leadoff man who is entering the final year of his contract. Ryan Braun will move to right field to replace Aoki, and the Brewers will fill left field with a group of young players led by promising slugger Khris Davis.

The move was precipitated by Davis’ emergence after Braun’s season-ending suspension. The Brewers exercised Aoki’s club option for 2014 at about the same time agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports began pushing the idea of a contract extension with Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin. When it became clear the Brewers were instead considering increasing Davis’ role, the sides agreed it made sense to seek a new home for Aoki.

“Everybody was on board with it,” Balelo said. “[Kansas City] was the best viable option. He’s going to love it there because he will get an opportunity to lead off and play every day.”

Said Melvin: “We have younger guys we feel we need to give an opportunity to.”

Smith is 8-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 35 appearances, 17 starts for the Royals over the past two seasons. He worked mostly in relief in 2013, posting a 3.24 ERA in 19 appearances, one start, but Melvin said the Brewers would look at him as a starter in the spring. The Brewers have no left-handed candidates for the starting rotation, and Tom Gorzelanny is the only active left-hander on the entire 40-man roster (Miguel De Los Santos remains on the restricted list while Major League Baseball sorts out problems with his paperwork).

Aoki, a three-time batting champion in Japan before the Brewers made a surprise bid for him during the 2011-12 offseason, hit .287 with a .355 on-baser percentage in 306 games with Milwaukee over the past two seasons. Melvin mentioned center fielder Carlos Gomez, second baseman Scooter Gennett and shortstop Jean Segura as potential replacements in the leadoff hole.

Braun, meanwhile, is switching positions for the second time in six years. He debuted as a third baseman in 2007 but moved to left field the following season and has played himself into a capable defender. He confirmed last week that he was open to moving to right.

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3 Comments

Will miss you Aoki!

So essentially we trade away proven talent in Aoki and are banking on Davis and Smith to produce. I know the Brewers need pitching and all (who doesn’t, right?) but I’m struggling to figure out how it makes sense to trade away your leadoff hitter who swiped 50 bags last year AND who was extremely affordable. The leadoff position is one that’s plagued the Brewers for years, and now it will once again. If Davis isn’t ready to be an everyday player and is sent back down, this trade will look like a completely bonehead move. Aoki was an incredibly valuable piece to this team during his tenure and we dish him away for a pitcher that (let’s face it) isn’t a lock to make the Opening Day roster. As a Brewers fan, I really hope I’m wrong in my assessment of this trade.

Great blog Adam, love reading your stuff!

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