Blue Jays: Teams reportedly checked in on Justin Smoak

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 5: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits an RBI single in the first inning during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 5, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 5: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits an RBI single in the first inning during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 5, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Arguably the Blue Jays’ best hitter this season, Justin Smoak reportedly caught the eye of some interested teams at the deadline.

After nearly five and a half months of baseball, first baseman Justin Smoak leads the 2018 Blue Jays in home runs, runs batted in, runs, plate appearances, walks, total bases, on-base percentage, OPS+, games played, and WAR. Though rather quiet, Smoak has genuinely been the most valuable hitter in the Blue Jays lineup.

That effectiveness was somewhat called into question at the end of August, when, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman, several teams “checked in” on Justin Smoak’s availability. This report, published as part of Heyman’s weekly “Inside Baseball” series, came just after he declared the Blue Jays as one of the “small winners” of the trade deadlines, referencing the Roberto Osuna and Seunghwan Oh trades as main positives.

Regarding Smoak, it’s unsurprising that rival teams were interested in his services. Among American League first basemen this year, Smoak is first in on-base percentage, second in doubles, third in runs and fourth in hits and home runs. Furthermore, the native of Goose Creek, South Carolina is second in the AL in OPS among first basemen with more than 325 plate appearances this season.

In addition to his obviously valuable production, Smoak’s contract, which includes a modest $8 million team option for the 2019 season (with a minuscule $250,000 buyout), adds tremendous value to an already big bat in any lineup.

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Though Heyman didn’t mention any specifics, it’s clear that talks didn’t advance enough to the point where a trade was materializing in any form. Smoak cleared waivers days before the August 31 waiver trade deadline.

In other reported news, Smoak’s first base counterpart, the streaky Kendrys Morales, apparently garnered “no interest”, according to Heyman. Though Morales did put up a healthy .253/.326/.578 slash in August before the deadline, his relatively large contract was evidently not enough to warrant a trade.

As of this writing, Morales is second to Smoak on the team in home runs and runs batted in, while his 1.3 WAR is good enough for fifth on the team.

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While it’s not overly important just how much interest there was in specific players prior to the deadline, it is relatively interesting to see where a player’s market lies when it comes to trades. Though Smoak himself might not be a potential trade chip in the coming months, Morales could certainly be dangled as trade bait should he continue to swing the bat well with consistency.