Blue Jays: Why trading Justin Smoak may be harder than it should be

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 20: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays watches as he hits a game-winning solo home run in the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 20, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 20: Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays watches as he hits a game-winning solo home run in the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 20, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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TORONTO, ON – APRIL 27: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates their victory with Justin Smoak #14 during MLB game action against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on April 27, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

There’s no doubt that Justin Smoak is a useful MLB hitter, but trading him this summer and getting any value in return could be harder than you think.

It’s no secret that the Blue Jays will likely be one of the most active sellers before the July 31st trade deadline, as that’s what happens when you’re in the beginning stages of a rebuild.

It’s expected that Ross Atkins and the front office will be shopping a list of veterans that could include Freddy Galvis, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Ken Giles, and possibly others. Each of the players listed has another year of control of their contracts, so there are even more obvious trade candidates like Clay Buchholz, Clayton Richard, and veteran first baseman, Justin Smoak.

Smoak is one of the few holdovers from the 2015-16 playoff teams, and has quickly become the oldest regular in the lineup despite being only 32 years old. With a young roster that doesn’t mean he’s old by any means, and he’s shown again this year that he’s a useful contributor on both sides of the ball.

On an expiring contract, it would make a lot of sense for the Blue Jays to explore trading him to a team in need before the stretch run this year. They always have the option of bringing him back this winter as a free agent, and they have to be pleased with the production of Rowdy Tellez so far, which could make the front office increasingly comfortable handing him the reigns at first base. Smoak’s eight million dollar contract isn’t exactly cumbersome, but it’s usually better to get something, rather than nothing, when it comes to a veteran on an expiring deal.

The problem with Smoak isn’t that he’s been injured (like a Josh Donaldson last year), or that he isn’t performing (Russell Martin, Marco Estrada, and more), but it still may be tough to find a trade partner for him this summer, at least for any semblance of fair value in return. The reason for that is the same reason sluggers like him are struggling to get big money, long-term deals in free agency. There are a lot of capable big leaguers who can play first base or DH.

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