Royals get Aoki in trade with Brewers


The Kansas City Royals have acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki from Milwaukee to be their leadoff hitter, which also means the Brewers are poised 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 Thursday he envisions Aoki batting at the top of the order, just as he did with the Brewers. Aoki hit .286 with eight homers, 37 RBIs and 20 steals last season.

Aoki gives Kansas City a prototypical leadoff hitter, which will allow left fielder Alex Gordon — who has more power — to slide down in the order and have more chances to drive in runs. 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 also struck out just 40 times in 674 plate appearances.

The Royals had already bolstered their starting rotation this offseason by agreeing to a four-year, $32 million deal with Jason Vargas. Now they have acquired the leadoff hitter they’ve long coveted.

Moore said they are still working on adding an impact bat. Veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who began his career with the Royals, spent time in Kansas City earlier this week. He’s reportedly seeking a three-year, $48 million deal.

By moving Aoki, the Brewers could head into next season with rookie Khris Davis in left field, Gold Glove-winner Carlos Gomez in center and Braun moving to right field. Braun is expected back in 2014 after his season-ending, 65-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s anti-drug agreement.

Kuroda decision looming

New York KYODO

Free agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is hoping to return for a third season in New York Yankees pinstripes in 2014, Yankees general manager Brain Cashman said Thursday.

“He wants to come back,” Cashman was quoted as saying on MLB.com.

“He’s going to pitch, but whether he’s going to pitch here or Japan or somewhere else here (in the United States), I don’t know yet. All indications are he is definitely interested in coming back to the Yankees. That’s the indication, but there’s no guarantee.”

According to U.S. media reports, it is believed the Yankees have made the 38-year-old Kuroda a one-year offer of $15 million or more, similar to the contract he worked under in 2013. This year, Kuroda went 11-13 with a 3.31 ERA in 32 starts.