The Toronto Blue Jays announced this afternoon that they have reached an agreement on a one year contract for $1 million with first baseman Justin Smoak. Smoak, who was acquired off waivers from the Seattle Mariners on October 28th, was non-tendered last night before agreeing to a contract with the Blue Jays today. He was projected to make around $3 million through arbitration, so this move should save the Jays roughly $2 million that they can now use elsewhere.
Once considered to be a top prospect of the Texas Rangers organization, Smoak was traded to Texas in 2010 and has never been able to live up to the high expectations. The blue jays are hoping that a move from the pitcher-friendly ballpark in Seattle to a hitter’s haven in Toronto will be able to spark his career. He is still only 27 years old after all.
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While his numbers look relatively disappointing on the surface, Smoak has been significantly better in his career on the road compared to home. He struggled mightily last year no matter where he played, but he’s just one year removed from a .782 OPS and 122 OPS+ on the road in 2013. For his career, Smoak owns a career 111 OPS+ on the road. He should also benefit from being surrounded by a much more potent lineup in Toronto. He was often miscast as a middle of the order hitter in Seattle, whereas he is going to get the majority of his at bats in the bottom half of Toronto’s lineup.
A switch-hitter, Justin Smoak has fared better in his career against right-handed pitchers than he has against left-handers. That’s good news for a team stacked with a lot of right-handed power. As things stand now, Smoak is likely to get the majority of the reps at first base, leaving Edwin Encarnacion as the designated hitter on most nights.
This signing, along with the recently announced trade for Michael Saunders, allows the jays to fill their holes at 1B/LF relatively inexpensively, which gives them an opportunity to allocate additional funds for the glaring hole in the bullpen.
The signing also seemingly guarantees that Dioner Navarro will open the 2015 season in another organization. There was talk that Dioner might spend the 2015 season as the primary DH and backup catcher to newly acquired Russell Martin, however after the Martin signing Navarro asked to be traded somewhere that he could be given an opportunity to start, a request that Alex Anthopoulos seems likely to comply with.
It’s been a busy week for the blue jays organization, and the winter meetings haven’t even started yet. There is still a lot of time left before the season starts, but the Jays are showing that they’re not going to spend the offseason resting.
What do you think of the Justin Smoak signing? Do you think he has the potential to be a significant part of the Jays plans this year? What effects do you think this will have on the rest of the roster? Let us know what you think!