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KC Royals acquire Japanese champ Aoki from Brewers

KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Royals acquired three-time Japanese batting champion Norichika Aoki from the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday in exchange for left-handed pitcher Will Smith.

Aoki, 31, batted .286 with eight home runs, 37 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases for the Brewers in 2013.

He ranked second in the majors with 40 infield hits and led the National League in singles with 140. He also hit .339 against left-handed pitching — the best average among left-handed hitters in Major League Baseball.

“We wanted to acquire a leadoff hitter so we could move Alex Gordon more to the middle of the lineup,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “I like the speed, I like the versatility. He gives us a lot of flexibility in the outfield.”

The Brewers acquired Aoki two years ago, paying Japanese club Yakult Swallows a US$2.5 million fee for the right to negotiate with him.

He had played eight seasons with the Swallows, batting .329 and belting 84 home runs in 985 games and was Japan's batting champion in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

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