Blue Jays’ 1B Justin Smoak is due $4.125 million over the next two seasons with a team option in 2019
The Toronto Blue Jays have already doubled up on first-basemen in free agency, and continue to be linked to another Mitch Moreland.
Granted, Kendrys Morales is likely to be hidden away at DH for 99% of his games and Steve Pearce offers versatility elsewhere, but the moves have sparked one common battle cry from armchair general managers of the Toronto Blue Jays: move Justin Smoak. Especially if Edwin Encarnacion returns, which is looking less likely by the day.
Dealing a player just half a season after signing them to an extension wouldn’t be the tidiest look for the Blue Jays’ front office, but just this once, let’s entertain the notion.
Valuing Justin Smoak
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First base and catcher are two positions where a front office can commonly value a player far differently than public metrics suggest they should. Whereas FanGraphs has pegged Smoak at a cumulative 0.1 WAR over the past three seasons — value easily found on a waiver wire for pennies — the Blue Jays could easily be working with different measurements.
Even if Smoak is just slightly more valuable in the eyes of the Blue Jays than he is to the public, the salary isn’t entirely unmanageable. With 1.0 WAR priced at the value of approximately $8 million on the open market, a 0.5-0.6 WAR season from Smoak would satisfy that X=Y equation. Enough, at least.
Smoak is too often written off as having no market value. Is he worth a useful asset? Unlikely. But if the Blue Jays’ front office thought highly enough of him to keep him around, it’s a hard sell to convince someone that all 29 front offices disagree.
A hypothetical market
Any move involving Justin Smoak, whether it be this spring or next off-season when Rowdy Tellez is ready to fully take over, would be a money deal.
There would be no trade of Justin Smoak for a No. 27 or No. 41 prospect — not unless something truly clicks this season. Instead, think of the Adam Lind for Marco Estrada deal. A very watered-down and morphed version of it.
Somewhere in baseball there will be a struggling team in need of some platoon/bench power, and if that team has a middle-reliever making $3-$5 million with a 4.50+ that they’re struggling to keep on the roster, then there could be a match.
Parallel it also to the Drew Storen for Joaquin Benoit deal, if you will. With the dollars close, two teams in the right situation could look at one another and say “let’s see if a fresh start benefits us both”.
The bottom line
While Smoak’s $4.125 million salary isn’t the comfiest thing on the Blue Jays’ payroll this season, it’s not their biggest problem by any means. If yet another name enters this 1B/DH picture and forces the squeeze over the next 16 months, however, this is not a completely unmovable asset.