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.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.