The Kansas City Royals have found their answer at right field, and they’ve also traded away one of many “very available” relievers. No, Carlos Beltran‘s triumphant return to KC didn’t happen. And no, none of the Royals in the bullpen that I’ve mentioned before as trade bait were involved in this transaction. The trade is surprisingly good news, and it came mostly by surprise.
Today, the Royals welcome Norichika Aoki to Kansas City. Aoki was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith. Aoki is a celebrated All-Star in Japan who made the transition to the MLB in 2012 with remarkable success. The now 31-year-old was an absolute stud in his eight seasons of Nippon Professional Baseball. With the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Aoki claimed seven All Star Awards, six Golden Gloves, three batting championships, earned the Rookie of the Year award and was named the NPB All Star Game MVP twice, among a long list of other immensely impressive accolades. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Japanese baseball, but everything indicates that the guy absolutely dominated at that level of play.
When the time came to bring his talents stateside, Aoki immediately proved himself with a strong 2012. He recorded a .288/.355/.433 slash line in 151 games with 30 stolen bases, 37 doubles and 81 runs scored. Aoki gave a very similar effort last season, but his doubles total was significantly reduced from 37 to 20. Kauffman Stadium‘s size should help Aoki project for a bounce-back year in multi-base hit production.
Aoki will stand out most for making a lot of contact. He won’t walk often, but he’ll strike out even less, and he’ll consistently provide extra-base hits. He is undoubtedly a smart addition to the Royals lineup in 2014. While this shouldn’t be the end of the Royals’ endeavors this offseason, fans should take a moment to enjoy this acquisition for what it is. We now know the Royals have made a sure-fire upgrade to the lineup, and that could mean quite a lot in 2014.