Will Smith Rumors

Quick Hits: Drew, Nelson, Smith, Marquis, Hall, July 2

As expected, recently signed Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew has cleared waivers and appeared in his first minor league game for the organization, reports Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). The procedural move of placing Drew on revocable outright waivers — a mechanism through which claims are rarely made — was needed since he inked a big league deal. Here’s the latest from around the game:

  • The Brewers will call up top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson to start Sunday to take the rotation turn of Yovani Gallardo, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At this point, at least, it seems that Nelson may only get one start, as Gallardo is not expected to miss significant time. As I explained back in April, Nelson already has 27 days of service to his credit. Accordingly, if he did stay in the bigs from this point forward, he would accrue enough service time to set himself up to become eligible for an additional year of arbitration as a Super Two player, though he will not be able to pass the one-year service mark by the end of the year.
  • Milwaukee’s decision to deal for reliever Will Smith (in exchange for outfielder Norichika Aoki) has been a key element in the team’s success this year, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The team’s pro scouting staff gave Smith high marks, leading GM Doug Melvin to pull the trigger on the trade. He has allowed just one earned run in 21 2/3 innings of work, posting 12.9 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9.
  • Pitcher Jason Marquis was scheduled to throw for scouts today, Rosenthal reports in the same piece. The 35-year-old had Tommy John surgery last summer after tossing 117 2/3 innings of 4.05 ball for the Padres.
  • Another former big leaguer looking to make a return is infielder Bill Hall, who tweets that he is on the comeback trail. The 34-year-old has spent time at third, short, second, and all over the outfield in his 11 seasons of MLB action, and owns a career .248/.308/.436 line. He spent last year with the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, putting up a .225/.321/.407 mark with 17 home runs in 452 plate appearances.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America has the latest updates on the July 2 market. Yesterday, Badler ticked through the top ten expected bonuses among players eligible to sign for the 2014-15 period, along with the clubs expected to land them. Leading the way is infielder Gilbert Lara, who has been linked to the Brewers and could earn $3MM. Four of the players are expected to go to the Yankees, with the RaysRed Sox, and Blue Jays also said to be set up for some large outlays among AL East clubs. (The American League could also be in line to pick up the other two players on that list, with the Mariners potentially in position to sign outfielder Brayan Hernandez and the White Sox predicted to land righty Huascar Ynoa.) And today, he profiles a set of field position prospects who figure to be among the best available players, headlined by Venezuelan shortstop Kenny Hernandez, who Badler says could get a nine-figure bonus.
  • Meanwhile, the Yankees are reportedly prepared to ink Korean shortstop Hyo-Jun Park for a $1.1MM bonus, according to a report from Korean outlet Naver (Korean language link; translated article; hat tip to River Ave. Blues ). Jason Cohen of Pinstripe Alley recently compiled the available information on Park, who is said to be a solid all-around player.

Royals Acquire Norichika Aoki

The Royals have acquired outfielder Norichika Aoki from the Brewers in exchange for left-hander Will Smith, the Brewers have announced via press release. The trade was first reported last night by the folks at the Royal Revival blog (on Twitter).

Aoki-Norichika

Aoki, 32 next month, enjoyed his second solid season with the Brewers since coming over from Japan. The lefty swinger batted .286/.356/.370 with eight homers and 20 stolen bases. Though his power numbers dipped in 2013, the former NPB batting champion has a solid .287/.355/.399 line in his two Major League seasons to go along with excellent right-field defense (+4.2 UZR/150; +21 DRS). He comes at a highly affordable rate also, as the Brewers exercised a cheap $1.9MM club option on Aoki following the season. He is a free agent following the 2014 campaign.

Aoki's acquisition would seem to call Kansas City's pursuit of Carlos Beltran into question. The Royals had reportedly been one of the front-runners to land Beltran (if not the front-runner), but unless they plan on shifting Aoki to center field, his presence in right field and Billy Butler's presence at DH make it more difficult to see Beltran fitting into the plans. However, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Royals still plan on pursuing Beltran even after acquiring Aoki.

Smith, 24, was shifted to the bullpen in 2013 and enjoyed an outstanding breakout campaign in a half-season's worth of big league action. Smith posted a 3.24 ERA with 11.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate in 33 1/3 innings for the Royals. His ERA would likely have been lower had it not been for a fluke 18.8 percent homer-to-flyball ratio that figures to regress going forward. xFIP, which assumes a normalized HR/FB ratio, pegged Smith at 2.50 last season. Smith held opposing right-handers to a .684 OPS and stifled lefties to the tune of a .157/.204/.353 line, so he's capable against hitters from both sides of the dish.

The Royals originally acquired Smith along with Sean O'Sullivan in a deal that sent Alberto Callaspo to the Angels. He's spent most of his career as a starting pitcher in the minors, where he has a 3.85 career ERA in 231 1/3 innings. Smith won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2015 campaign and can be controlled through the 2019 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.