It seems like the farewell tour has begun for Justin Smoak lately, and given the state of the Blue Jays’ roster, it feels premature to say bye right now.
As we wind down the 2019 season, there are less than 10 games left to enjoy this year, at least as far as watching the Blue Jays play anyway.
For Justin Smoak, those eight games could be his last in a Blue Jays’ uniform, and the farewell tour seems to have already started for the 32-year-old. The reporters are asking him about the topic in post-game interviews, and the fact that he’s in the final days of his current contract has come up in all kinds of articles, including here at Jays Journal.
However, while I understand the assumption that Smoak will be in another uniform next year, I’m not so sure we should be saying our goodbyes at this point. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he was brought back on another 1-2 contract, and I don’t think the Blue Jays are ruling it out.
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The talented switch-hitter rejuvenated his career after coming to Toronto, finally delivering on the promise that made him a first round pick back in the 2008 draft (11th overall by the Rangers), and he’s provided a lot of value off the field as well. He’s become a beloved teammate for the youngsters who have arrived in the big leagues this year, and has been essentially important to Rowdy Tellez‘s development.
In fact, Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler discusserd as much on last night’s broadcast, talking about how Smoak has acted as a mentor or even a “father figure” for Tellez over the last couple of years. As Tellez was dealing with the sickness and death of his mother, Smoak was the first person to reach out to him and lend his support for his teammate.
That type of veteran leadership could be enough to keep him around on a reasonable contract, but the Blue Jays could arguably use his services next season as well. As promising as Tellez has been at times, he’s also gone through extended cold stretches that should give the Blue Jays pause when it comes to handing him the keys to the first base gig. They’re not ready to give up on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base yet either (nor should they be), so they’re going to need to bring in somebody for depth at the very least. Why not somebody who understands exactly what’s going on in Toronto, and better yet, could be a good mentor to help get the most out of Tellez?
We’ll see what kind of market there could be for Smoak this offseason, but the trade market this past July could give us some indication. Despite the fact that the Blue Jays were clearly selling, they couldn’t find a good deal to send Smoak to a contender. Part of that is because of the needs at first base among the contenders, but it’s also indicative of another trend.
The market for slugging first basemen hasn’t been very robust the last couple of years, and that could work in the favour of a Smoak/Blue Jays reunion. Because I think the club would ultimately like to see Tellez take the reigns, they likely won’t want to invest big at first base/DH. With all due respect to Smoak, I don’t think he’s going to command a very big salary, and one year and 5-8 million might be enough to get it done, which should be palatable to Blue Jays’ management.
However it works out, it’ll be sad to see Smoak go if these are his final days in a Blue Jay uniform. However, I think it’s a little premature to assume that he’s guaranteed to be elsewhere in 2020.