No team in MLB has had a better offseason than the Kansas City Royals. One year removed from the despicable trading of 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, Royals general manager Dayton Moore is redeeming himself in a big way.
On Thursday, the Royals agreed to send 23-year-old reliever Will Smith to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for 31-year-old outfielder Norichika Aoki. A Japan native, Aoki only has two years of MLB experience under his belt despite turning 32 in less than a month. Even still, the Royals made a dynamite move by snagging Aoki from the Brewers for an unproven lefty with plenty of question marks.
Aoki spent 133 games as the Brewers’ lead-off hitter in 2013 and finished the year with a .356 on-pace percentage and .286 batting average. If you can recall, the Royals used leftfielder Alex Gordon at the No.1 slot last season, but you could tell that the All-Star was clearly out of sorts. Gordon went into 2013 season riding two straight seasons of an above .294 batting average. However, the 29-year-old finished the 2013 campaign with a mediocre .265 batting average and less-than-stellar .327 OBP.
Meanwhile, Aoki has plenty of experience at the top of the line-up and gives manager Ned Yost a ton of flexibility when it comes to the ultra-talented Royals’ roster. On top of playing a stellar right field, Aoki is also significantly cheaper then free agent and supposed Royals’ target Carlos Beltran.
The offseason is hardly a month old, yet the Royals have firmly cemented themselves as “Winter winners.” The Aoki-Smith trade is one that most MLB fans will look back at this season and wonder why more teams weren’t keying in on Aoki back in December.