The Kansas City Royals acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki from Milwaukee to be their leadoff hitter Thursday, which also means the Brewers are likely to shift Ryan Braun to right field.
Milwaukee received left-hander Will Smith, who spent most of the past couple seasons shuffling between Kansas City and Triple-A Omaha, and between the bullpen and the starting rotation.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on a conference call that he envisions Aoki batting at the top of the order, just as he did with the Brewers, which would allow Alex Gordon to slide down into an RBI-producing role. Aoki hit .286 with eight homers, 37 RBIs and 20 steals last season.
Aoki, who turns 32 next month, also ranked second in the majors with 40 infield hits, and .339 against left-handed pitching, the best average by a left-handed hitter in the big leagues. He struck out just 40 times in 674 plate appearances.
“We like his energy, we like his work ethic. He’s a pro,” Moore said. “We had a chance to see him a lot in Japan coming up. … We’ll see how it plays out.”
Aoki, who is in the last year of his contract, is due $1.25 million this season. He can also make up to $1,087,500 in performance bonuses based on starts and games played.