The Kansas City Royals announced today that they have acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki (pronounced: nor-EACH-kah AH-okee) from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for left-handed pitcher Will Smith.
Aoki, 31, batted .286 with eight home runs, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases for Milwaukee in 2013. He ranked second in the Major Leagues with 40 infield hits, while he led the National League in singles (140), tied for seventh in multi-hit games (50), seventh in times reaching base (237) and tied for 10th in hits (171). Aoki hit .339 (60-for-181) against left-handed pitching last season, the top average by a left-handed hitter in the Major Leagues. He also struck out just 40 times in 674 plate appearances for an MLB-leading 16.9 at-bats per strikeout ratio.
Aoki was signed by the Brewers prior to the 2012 season after playing eight seasons with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League (2004-11). He batted .288 during his rookie campaign with the Brewers, collecting 10 homers, 50 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 151 games. He finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting, leading all first-year players in steals and tied San Diego's Yonder Alonso for the N.L. rookie lead in hits (150).
He hit .329 with 84 homers, 385 RBI and 164 stolen bases during his career in Japan. Aoki won the Central League's batting championship three times: 2005 (.344), 2007 (.346) and 2010 (.358) and hit over .300 in seven of his eight seasons in the league. He is the only player in Nippon Professional Baseball history with two 200-plus hit seasons (2005 and 2010). Aoki was a seven-time recipient of the Best Nine Award (Japanese equivalent of the Silver Slugger Award), a six-time Gold Glove honoree in center field and was the 2005 Central League Rookie of the Year. He was also a member of both of Japan's World Baseball Classic championship teams in 2006 and 2009.
He will become the first Japanese-born position player to suit up for the Royals.
Smith, 24, went 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 19 appearances (18 as a reliever) for the Royals last season.