Blue Jays: Justin Smoak, a valuable commodity

 

Justin Smoak has turned himself from a failed top prospect into a valuable trading commodity for the Blue Jays this offseason

 

Credit: Ryan Mueller Jays From the Couch

We have seen Justin Smoak’s name pop up a few times this week. First, MLBTR’s Mark Polischuk (full article) examined several potential everyday first baseman who may or may not be on the market this offseason. Among them, Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Abreu, Brandon Belt, Wil Myers, Carlos Santana, and even ex-Jay Eric Thames but it was our every day first base which Polischuk thinks would be the ‘most decidedly available’.

 

Mark points out the attractiveness of Smoak’s 8MM club option for 2019 to other teams versus the other names mentioned above. He also suggests ‘the Blue Jays are certainly open to all offers on their veterans’.

 

Why? Why would the Blue Jays want to trade their every day first baseman when other teams, like Boston and New York Yankees, among others, are having a hard time filling the position.

 

The 32-yr-old first baseman was recently named as a Gold Glove finalist. He’s played 563 games for Toronto over the past four years with a career-high 158 games in 2017. Smoak was a 1.7 WAR in 2018 with 25 HR and 77 RBI while posting a .808 OPS.

 

According to Fangraphs, Smoak’s 25 HR were 6th most among qualifying first baseman while his .216 ISO and .349 wOBA ranked 5th and 8th.

 

These numbers, his attractive 2019 salary, and the fact he plays for a rebuilding team make him ‘most decidedly available’ and explains why the Blue Jays Front Office would ‘certainly open to all offers’.

 

But then I read Jon Heyman (link) suggesting ‘the Blue Jays aren’t certain to exercise first baseman Justin Smoak’s option’. Heyman also suggests that Toronto could pick up the option and shop the 6-foot-4 switch-hitter.

 

Raise your hand if you actually think Toronto would rather pay Smoak 250K to become a free-agent. That’s what I thought; however, there is an argument which can be made for NOT exercising Moakey’s team option (none I agree with).

 

  1. The team is rebuilding. Why pay a guy 8MM when you can pay Rowdy Tellez to play the same position for the league minimum.
  2. It’s easier than moving Kendrys Morales, Troy Tulowitzki, and/or Russell Martin. If you truly want the kids to play.
  3. The Front Office tried to move Smoak at the deadline and could find any suitors. This would mean they’d be ‘stuck’ with him for the entire season.
  4. Lastly, they don’t think he can produce in 2019 and combined with #3 are more willing to cut their losses.

 

I enjoyed watching Rowdy Tellez produce in September; however, 23 games (no matter how impressive) don’t make a career. There is some logic to moving away from Smoak in favor of Tellez but let’s be honest, it is unlikely Tellez will get the first crack at first base. It is more likely Morales will split time with Martin or Tulo (I joke) while Teoscar Hernandez is transitioned from the outfield to DH.

 

But to lose him for nothing? No, I’m not okay with that. So, let’s throw Heyman’s suggest of not exercising the club option in the trash. Mark Polischuk suggests ten teams Smoak could be traded to. He lists the Los Angels Angels of Anaheim, Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox as longshots. As Potential Suitors, Polischuk lists the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, and Colorado Rockies.

 

Of the 10 teams listed above, I like the Twins and Rockies.

 

Twins

Miguel Sano could be pushed over to 1st base but his glove, work around the bag, health history, off-field history, and his 2018 struggles, might be too much to bank on. Joe Mauer set to retire after playing all but a handful of cames at 1st for the Twins in 2018. It’s possible that Tyler Austin takes over at 1st, it might be the reason he was picked him up from the Yankees but he hasn’t proved he can hit major league pitching with a .232 career batting average over 120 games.

 

Minnesota has a Top 10 farm system, loaded with arms.

 

Rockies

The Rockies rolled with Ian Desmond, who did well but is better suited in the outfield, and Ryan McMahon, who struggled in his 91 games. McMahon is just 23-yr-old and the potential for him to develop into an everyday first baseman is still there. A year of Justin Smoak won’t hurt McMahon’s development and would help a team expected to compete for a division title again in 2019.

 

Colorado doesn’t have the Top 10 farm system of the Twins but their system does rank in the top 15. The Rockies have a stable of young starters and could look to move an established arm (Jon Gray or Chad Bettis or the Jays could gamble on Jeff Hoffman) to make room for a controllable arm.

 

Imagine the production from Justin Smoak in Colorado.

 

Final Thoughts

I like Justin Smoak. I would 100% percent exercise the club option and shop him around the league but not for a bag of potato chips. Smoak has value and Polischuk listed 10 teams who would benefit from acquiring his services, even it’s just for a year. The price tag wouldn’t be high, so it’s unlikely a Top 100 Prospect would be coming back.

 

This Front Office gambled on the 2017 and 2018 teams, hoping to contend. It cost the franchise from turning valuable veteran assists (Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, and even Smoak) into prospect hauls. There are no delusions about competing for a wild-card spot in 2019, so Smoak will be traded before Spring Training begins.

 

 

 


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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.

Ryan Mueller

Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn't cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I'm more right.