Opening day. March 31, 2014. Miller Park. Player introductions:
And playing right field for your Milwaukee Brewers: RrrrrrryanBraun.
The last part of that is familiar. Very familiar. The first part, the right field part, is foreign in relation to Braun. But that doesn't sound too bad, does it? Has a nice ring to it? Especially when preceded by:
In left field...Khris Davis!
Because that is almost certainly what those introductions are going to be. The Brewers have traded Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals, leaving them with a hole in right field that looks like it will be filled by Ryan Braun.
The return in the trade is so-so. I'm alright with it, a lot of people will probably be underwhelmed. The Brewers are receiving Will Smith, a 24-year-old left handed pitcher.
Smith has pitched in parts of two major league seasons thus far. He made 16 starts in 2012, posting a 5.32 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. He moved to the bullpen primarily in 2013 and looked better. He spent most of the year in the minors, but made 19 appearances for the Royals with a 3.24 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. He also struck out an outstanding 11.6 batters per nine innings with just a 1.9 BB/9 which, by golly, I can get into. His numbers were also good in the minors last year, while also still making 10 starts.
Smith has a career 3.80 ERA in the minors and, up until last year, had never been really outstanding. Still, he's a left-hander, which the Brewers don't have many of, and he's a left-hander with control, so he's not Manny Parra. He may not work out, but he's still pre-arbitration and there's a decent chance he can at the very least be useful out of the bullpen. For one year of Aoki, five years of Smith is not too shabby of a deal. The Brewers lost a speedy leadoff hitter, but they got a pretty decent lottery ticket.
The Brewers will bring Smith into camp as a starter because, if that works out, a starting pitcher is certainly more valuable than a reliever. It would be a pretty easy switch to move him back to the bullpen if he struggles.
And, of course, this opens up room for both Ryan Braun and Khris Davis to play the outfield which very well might be a significant improvement to the 2013 squad. Aoki is good, but he really does probably profile better as a fourth outfielder for most teams. Davis has hit at every single level (including the majors!). Braun is an MVP. They should both probably play a lot next year, unless Davis shows that 2013 was an aberration.
Smith could be another guy that could slot into the back of the rotation. He could, based on last year's numbers, be a future closer. He could burn out and be nothing. But Aoki held little value to the Brewers going forward and they weren't going to get anything big for him in a trade. I'd say Doug Melvin did a pretty good job with this deal.
Anyway, the long and short of it is, get ready for a lot of Will Smith, the actor jokes. Milwaukee may have lost Prince Fielder a couple years back, but they have a new, Fresh Prince.