Blue Jays: Top five extension candidates on the current roster
#2- Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak is the first player on this list that’s on an expiring contract, which is also one of the reasons his name came up in a few rumours this winter as well. However, playing on an affordable contract of just eight million, there was no reason to give him away unless the offer was right, and clearly that never came.
The value of first basemen has shifted a great deal in recent years, which will work against Smoak when the time comes to hit free agency. If he had become a free agent a decade ago he would likely be in line for a big money, longer term deal, but instead he’s probably going to have to settle for something in the 2-3 year range, and for modest money. With that in mind, I think he could be a pretty realistic extension candidate for the Blue Jays.
Standing in the way of the idea for now could be two players. The first is Rowdy Tellez, who has an outside shot to make the team out of spring training, but more likely will have to wait for Smoak to either suffer an injury, or get traded before he’ll become the regular starter in the big leagues. That could happen in 2019, 2020, or maybe not at all, and his performance at the big league level could have a lot to do with whether Smoak could stick around.
In my mind, the second obstacle to a Smoak extension would be Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who will begin his MLB career at the hot corner, but could be a candidate to move across the diamond at some point. I really do think the Jays give him an extended look at third though, and probably for at least a couple of seasons, which is a timeline that could work with a new contract for Smoak. If you added a couple years on to his current contract, those three years (including the current one left) would be more than enough time for Vlad Jr. to show whether he can stick at third for the long term or not.
Given his strong performance, his modest salary, and his quiet professionalism, I actually think he makes a lot of sense to keep Smoak around beyond 2019. We’ll see what 2019 brings for him, the trade deadline, and for Tellez’s development, but don’t be surprised if he’s in Toronto beyond this season. I’ve got a funny feeling about this one.
Likelihood of an extension right now: 5/10