With no sign of improvement on the horizon, the time has come for the Toronto Blue Jays to cut ties with first baseman Justin Smoak once and for all.
The Toronto Blue Jays were hopeful coming into spring training that Justin Smoak could hit the restart button after a disastrous 2016 season, a season in which Smoak whiffed 112 times in 341 plate appearances.
The first baseman has shown no sign of improvement thus far in Grapefruit League action batting .143 while striking out nine times in 21 spring at bats over the course of eight spring games. Numbers that don’t scream eternal optimism after the campaign Smoak suffered through last season.
There are some internal and external options available to manager John Gibbons not named Smoak.
Steve Pearce is everyday first baseman:
Pearce is coming off an injury and has been eased into defensive responsibilities this spring but assuming he is healthy, the Blue Jays could anoint Pearce their everyday first basement. This would be an easier move to swallow if the Jays had a reliable player to slot into the left field spot.
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I am still a fan of signing Angel Pagan to play left field and Pearce becomes the everyday first baseman.
Promote Rowdy Tellez:
The Blue Jays could hand the first base keys to rookie Rowdy Tellez and let him run with the job. Tellez has had a respectable spring batting .292 with seven hits in 24 at bats. Tellez has also struck out eight times this spring but hits the ball to all fields and could still be an upgrade to Smoak.
Tellez has looked much improved defensively at first base during spring training games and appears capable or playing the position.
Sign Free Agent Justin Morneau:
Canadian first baseman Justin Morneau just wrapped up the World Baseball Classic and is looking for work. The former MVP and batting title champion would come rather cheap for a one-year term holding down the position for Tellez to eventually take it over.
Morneau hits to contact and could provide some upside if he is, in fact, healthy.
Utilize Jose Bautista at First Base:
There is no question the former third baseman could handle the position defensively. Team Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena utilized Bautista as a defensive replacement for Carlos Santana at first base during the 9th inning of a World Baseball Classic contest versus Team USA recently.
Between Bautista and Pearce, they could manage the first base duties without Smoak in the picture.
And………There is Always Kendrys Morales:
I don’t forsee Morales seeing a ton of action at first base but he can eat up a few innings in a pinch if it means giving someone else a day off their feet in the designated hitter spot.
The timing of the Justin Smoak extension last season was strange, to say the least, but at this point, the Blue Jays are going to have to eat the $8.5 million and send him packing.
The Justin Smoak experiment has to be officially over.