Blue Jays agree to $3.9 million deal with Justin Smoak


The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly handed an unexpected payday to first baseman Justin Smoak. After making just $1 million in 2015 with the Blue Jays and being projected to earn $2.0 million in his upcoming arbitration, the Blue Jays have instead struck a one-year deal with the slugger worth $3.9 million. Go figure. 

It’s a jolting number, but perhaps that $2.0 million arbitration projection was based off of Smoak’s $1 million 2015 salary, and not the salary he was originally expected to earn in arbitration. Keep in mind that the Blue Jays non-tendered Smoak on almost this exact same date last offseason, bringing him back on a lesser contract. Something we could eventually be seeing with the non-tendering of Josh Thole.

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The arbitration process does pay for power historically, but it’s still a richer deal than anyone projected.

Smoak was good for a FanGraphs WAR of 0.6 in 2015, earning a UZR/150 of 4.6, a career high for the former blue chip prospect. He belted 18 home runs on the season and set a career high in RBI with 44, posting a .226 batting average.

He would essentially be overtaken by (the more affordable) Chris Colabello in the playoffs, largely because of Smoak’s 26.2% strikeout rate and habit of swinging over breaking balls by 12 inches. He also drew walks at a rate of just 8.8%, below his career average of 10.5% for the second consecutive season.

Smoak is certainly a bat that fits the Rogers Centre, and at some point over the summer, Alex Anthopoulos mentioned that the Blue Jays analytics department played a stronger role than normal in bringing him into the fold. It wasn’t a failed experiment by any stretch of the imagination, and Smoak undoubtedly has value, but $3.9 million worth?

It seems to be an odd fit within the current budget conversation of the Blue Jays as well, especially given today’s report from Jerry Crasnick that Toronto is searching for relief help at “dollar store” prices. There’s miles to go this offseason, and it’s not worth it to get worked up over a contract as relatively small as this one, but it’s a curious case.

Now that Toronto has some level of budget clarity on their end with this deadline passing, the front office can look to a market that’s currently seeing an influx of non-tenders from elsewhere in the league.