Apr 23, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Will Smith (13) pitches in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The first move (at the time many worried, only move) for the Brewers offseason was the trade of Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher, Will Smith. Who was this Smith guy and who is going to lead off? After a couple Fresh Prince jokes, a Ryan Braun position change and a nice spring, fans started to warm up to the lefty.
With Khris Davis waiting in the wings, the cost for the Brewers was losing their lead-off hitter. They also lost the chance to have four outfielders capable of starting, but that was a luxury not to be had.
In 2013, Aoki hit .286 with an OBP of .356. With a one-year team option remaining, it was likely 2014 was going to be Aoki’s final season with the Crew. Best to let him leave and join a team with a chance to contend. (Karma really does work in mysterious ways.) Meanwhile, Smith becomes arbitration eligible in 2016, and won’t be a free agent until 2020.
Smith has been one (if not the) of the most reliable pitchers on the team. He has pitched just over 20 innings and has an ERA of 0.44. He has struck out 30 and only walked 9. Smith has allowed only 1 run this season.
This metric doesn’t translate for middle relief work. However, it is safe to say that Will Smith’s body of work has had a positive impact for the team in the win column.
Obviously Smith has the skills to pitch in the big leagues and deserves more opportunities once they become available. At only 24 years of age Smith’s future looks bright and given his pitching to date, he may get that chance to start sooner than later.
Aoki was loved by both fans and the organization, but this was clearly a trade to make. Will Smith gives Milwaukee a lefty, a solid bullpen pitcher and potential starter down the road. At this point it appears the Brewers got the best of the Royals (again).