Thursday, December 5, 2013

Confirmed: Will Smith for Norichika Aoki

Wow! Have the last 12 hours been exciting for us at Royal Revival. First off, what an excellent job by our blog team to get the Will Smith for Norichika Aoki information out there. As we have said before: at this blog we have a very humble amount of connections throughout the baseball industry. Our goal has never been to be an entity that "breaks" stories.

On numerous occasions in the past we have received information and often we are forced to drop subtle hints into our posts as opposed to blasting the information out on Twitter. We have also had an internal debate about we should even take the chance of sending out information when we don't have the means to confirm it with secondary sources. Ultimately, last night our source was confident enough to give us the courage to go ahead and share the information blatantly with the Royals Twitterverse.

Even when we dispersed the information we were careful in our wording. The last thing we wanted was to come off to the Royals Twitterverse as another Scott Swaim. We were then relieved this morning to see that the source was correct in regards to the trade. Following the moment of relief we were then elated to realize that we had just broken a legitimate Major Leaguer for Major Leaguer trade. We have been even more overwhelmed by the congratulatory response that we have received by the fantastic Royals blogosphere.

Don't expect this to become a regular occurrence for us. In our 4+ years as a blog, on one hand you can count the number of moves we have actually broken (a couple of draft picks, a trade and an international signing). Most of what we hear is just internal opinions of players and rumors. Again we normally are careful about the way we sprinkle this information into our posts when we have it.

Now let's get to the deal.

Personally, I think this move makes sense for Kansas City. Between this move and the Dexter Fowler rumors it seems obviously clear that one of the Royals offseason strategies was to deal from their relief corps in an attempt to bring in a right fielder. They have now succeeded in this endeavor.

Before I analyze the implications of this specific trade, I first would like to trace its lineage.

  1. Norichika Aoki acquired for Will Smith. 
  2. Will Smith acquired with Sean O'Sullivan for Alberto Callaspo
  3. Alberto Callaspo acquired for Billy Buckner
  4. Billy Buckner drafted in the 2nd Round of the 2004 Amateur Draft
Not too shabby. Thanks to some quality trades, the Royals are still managing to return value for a second round pick that was made nearly a decade ago. So far that pick has netted the Royals 4.2 fWAR with the opportunity to keep on giving. 

As for Aoki, he's an excellent fit for the Royals moving forward. One of my fears entering the offseason was that the Royals would allow history to repeat itself. In an attempt to find a power bat, they would sacrifice defense and on base percentage for home runs and rbi's (Mike Jacobs, cough). Dreams of Mark Trumbo in a Royals uniform danced through my head.

I even wondered if the Royals best course of action might be to go into 2014 with David Lough manning right. After all, in just 96 games he managed to post 2.4 fWAR. Unfortunately, I don't think the Royals trust Lough to post a similar mark in 2014. I would agree.

Lough is extremely BABIP dependent as an offensive player. In 2013, he walked 3% of the time and struck out 15.5% of the time. Both of these marks compare very unfavorably to Aoki who walked at an 8.2% clip and struck out at 5.9%, Based off these numbers I think there is a pretty safe bet that Aoki's offense will be better moving forward despite the difference in age. 

Lough's true value in 2013 stemmed from his stellar defense in right field. The issue is that we aren't dealing with an enormous sample size. Yes, Lough is a strong defender, but is he one of the best in baseball? I don't know that he is. Meanwhile, according to the Fielding Bible Aoki was the fifth most valuable defensive right fielder in baseball a season ago.

I don't know that Aoki provides the Royals with a huge upgrade from Lough's 2013 version. The problem simply was that it would have been very risky for the Royals to count on getting Lough's 2013 version again in 2014. Next season, Aoki will bring the consistency of a strong glove and strong on base percentage to the Royals. For a team with multiple wild cards, it is nice to have a position that they can count on for 2-3 WAR.

As for Smith, he will be missed but his loss won't hurt the Royals. Given his skill set, his value is higher for a team like the Brewers than it is for Kansas City. The Royals seemed to have already sentenced him to life as a reliever. For the Brewers he should get the opportunity to pitch in the back of their rotation. 

Smith is a good relief arm, but I applaud the Royals for dealing from a position of strength. I don't think this move immediately changes the fortunes for the Royals in 2014, but it does fill one of the voids that needed to be addressed this offseason.

One additional note, I've been asked several times how I believe this affects the Beltran talks. In my opinion it doesn't. I've heard that Glass is viewing Beltran as an opportunity to really squash his non-caring image. I think if the Royals do sign Beltran, it means that Butler is on the move. 

If anything this trade this protected the Royals from themselves and their own urge to regularly play Beltran in RF. The Butler vs Beltran debate is better suited for another post. In my opinion, this move does not remove Kansas City from the Beltran equation.

Thank you again to all those who have congratulated us on breaking this trade. We appreciate the support, but most of all we appreciate to talk Royals baseball with you every single day. 

Be sure to follow each of our writers @tipof_arrowhead @PadenBennett22 @Daniel_L_Ware and myself @Landon_Adams. 


  1. Congrats on the scoop. I'm sure it boosted your Twitter following - I somehow didn't have you on my roster, a deficiency that's been corrected.

    I love this move for KC. Is there a better defensive outfield in baseball than Gordon, Cain & Aoki? It will be awesome to have a true leadoff guy in this HR-light order. When you have to chain together baserunners to score even one run, it's kind of important to, you know, have guys who get on base. I now hope they don't get Beltran, as much as my emotional side would love to have him back in blue and white. Of course, if there's somehow a Billy-for-a-2B move out there, that changes everything, but I don't think that's likely.

  2. Good job! I also like the trade but I am firmly in the camp that hopes it takes us out of the Beltran sweepstakes.