The Kansas City Royals acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki from the Milwaukee Brewers today for pitcher Will Smith. Aoki is a legitimate major league outfielder who is an upgrade over what the Royals pieced together in right field over the past few years.
If General Manager Dayton Moore can be said to have a type of player he targets, Norichika Aoki would fit. He is better than average defender with some speed, and little power. The reason Moore seems to go for these types of player is that they are generally cheap. They are a lot more common than power hitters. Plus, Aoki’s price tag certainly qualifies him for a Moore type of player.
Aoki is scheduled to make $1.950 million in 2014, which is certainly in Kansas City’s price range. This could qualify as bargain shopping on Moore’s part. The former Brewer fills a couple of voids for the Royals without taking up much out of the Glass family’s huge bank vault. Aoki will be arbitration eligible after the 2014 season.
The 31-year old has a career major league slash line of .287/.355./.399/.755. Over the course of his first two years in the majors, Aoki’s average and On Base Percentage have been nearly identical each season. There was some big fluctuation in his slugging percentage. In his rookie year in 2012, his SLG% was .787; it dropped to .726 in 2012. This drop came mostly from a drop in doubles from 37 in 2012 to 20 in 2013.
He fits in with the Royals in more ways than just his salary. He is a legitimate lead off hitter who can get on base and maybe swipe a bag or two. Although his 71% success rate in stealing bases isn’t great, it is still decent. When batting lead off, Aoki has an On Base Percentage of .360 in 1,076 plate appearances. His presence in the line up will allow Alex Gordon to move down in the line up, and into a more of a run producing role.
Aoki also fits into Moore’s mold of a good defensive player. In 544 chances over two years, he only has 6 errors and 17 assists. While he isn’t spectacular in the field, he is not brutal by any means. His Ultimate Zone Rating, according to Fangraghs, was 3.2 in 2013 (-.9 in 2012), which is not particularly high. Compare that to Jeff Francoeur‘s in 2012 (-5.8) and David Lough in 2013 (14.5). Considering his low error totals, this tends to indicate that he may not be the most rangy outfielder but he seldom makes mistakes when he gets to the ball.
This is a good move by the Royals. There was no certain spot on the pitching staff for Will Smith and Aoki is an everyday outfielder. The left hander does not have very big lefty/righty splits as a batter. He actually hits slightly higher against left handers – .304 to .279 – but his OBP is a tiny bit better against righties – .357 to .351.
He also walks more than he strikes out. For his career, he has 98 walks to 95 strikeouts, but in 2013 he walked 55 times and only struck out 40 instances.
The Royals are still pursuing Carlos Beltran, and if the Royals can bring him into the fold, another move or two will have to be made. It is unlikely that Kansas City will go into the season with both Beltran and Butler on the roster. Butler could possibly bring in help for the pitching staff and/or a second base upgrade in the right deal.
Just on face value, this was a pretty good trade for the Royals as they traded from a strength to fill a weakness, without adding much in the way of payroll. Aoki is a good value, especially for a team on a budget. It remains to be seen if this is just the start of a series of moves yet to be made by the Royals. Regardless, it is promising to be an interesting next week or so for Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals.