Kansas City has a new starting outfielder, as the Royals announced that they’ve acquired Norichika Aoki from the Brewers for left-hander Will Smith.
Aoki has been a tremendous bargain for Milwaukee since coming over from Japan two seasons ago, playing nearly every day and hitting .287 with a .355 on-base percentage, 50 steals, and quality outfield defense while earning just $3 million total.
He’s under contract for just $2 million in 2014, so it’s a little surprising that the Brewers couldn’t get more for him than the 24-year-old Smith. While certainly not a bad young pitcher, Smith has a 4.76 ERA through 123 career innings and shifted to the bullpen this year after looking like little more than a potential back-of-the-rotation starter based on his minor-league track record.
Perhaps that’s the going rate for a good, cheap 31-year-old outfielder and the move does clear room for Khris Davis to play regularly for the Brewers after the 25-year-old slugged 11 homers in his 56-game debut.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.