The Milwaukee Brewers traded Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals for starter/reliever Will Smith. There are plenty of fans in Milwaukee that are disappointed, rightfully so. However, it’s important to see the pros and cons of the trade before calling for general manager Doug Melvin’s job.
Why the trade is good for the Brewers:
Milwaukee was only going to be able to control Aoki’s contract through the 2014 season. He was not going to have to go through arbitration as a clause in his contract stated he would become a free agent after his time is up with the Brewers. That means Milwaukee traded Aoki for a 24-year-old left-handed pitcher who will be under the Brewers’ control for many years to come.
Smith’s statistics aren’t impressive by any means. His 4.76 career earned run average in 123 innings is nothing to be excited about. With that being said, Smith is capable of being a starter or a reliever, which means Milwaukee will have the luxury of deciding how he helps the team.
The Brewers have already stated that Smith will enter Spring Training as a member of the starting rotation. Basically, it will be his job to lose. Milwaukee desperately needed a left-hander in the rotation so this is definitely a step in the right direction.
Another good reason for the trade is that outfielder Khris Davis, who showed a tremendous amount of potential in his rookie season, will get to start in left field. That means slugger Ryan Braun will move to right field. If all goes well, Milwaukee will have one of the top offensive outfields in the National League.
Why the trade is bad for the Brewers:
Aoki is an incredible talent who was considered to be one of the best leadoff hitters in the NL. In 2013, he led the league in singles (140) and at-bats per strikeout (14.9). He also batted .286 with eight home runs, 37 RBI, 20 doubles, three triples, 20 stolen bases and a .356 on-base percentage last season.
Even though there is a good chance 2014 was going to be Aoki’s last season in Milwaukee, the Brewers could have used his help in pushing for a playoff berth. Without him, the team will struggle to find a decent leadoff hitter. The only hope is that Rickie Weeks pulls his act together before Milwaukee pulls the plug on him.
On top of everything else, Aoki is a left-handed batter, which is something the Brewers don’t have many of. In fact, the only left-handed batter that has a chance of starting next season is Scooter Gennett.
As far as the Brewers go, the success of the trade falls completely on the shoulders of Smith. In his first two years in the big leagues, the Georgia native has yet to impress. In 16 starts in 2012, he posted a 6-9 record with a 5.32 ERA and 59 strikeouts. Not exactly the numbers Milwaukee is hoping for in 2014. Smith did show much improvement last season, although that was in the bullpen. Either way, the Brewers are optimistic that he can become a top-notch starter in a rotation that desperately needs a spark.
There are definitely parts of Smith’s game that will excite fans going forward, such as his impressive breaking ball. He has all the makings of a pitcher who could have plenty of success in Milwaukee. At this point, it’s imperative that he build on his strengths and improve his weaknesses as fast as possible so the Brewers can get back in the postseason hunt.