Do you remember when some of us panicked after seeing Dwight Smith Jr’s hot start with the Baltimore Orioles? How did that end up working out?
Hindsight is 20/20, and the Blue Jays have been on the beneficial end of a few trades and roster transactions that have really worked out surprisingly well in their favour. Take for instance, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion‘s emergence while in Toronto that virtually no one saw coming before it happened.
There are times when it works the other way too though, and Blue Jays fans know that all too well. For example, we’ve been re-living the R.A. Dickey–Noah Syndergaard trade for several years now, and the reality is that you don’t always know how a player’s career is going to work out, and sometimes it takes a change of scenery before they really flourish.
Blue Jays fans were worried that was exactly what was happening early in the 2019 season when Dwight Smith Jr. had a hot start this year, and to be fair, it looked like a move they may regret in the long run. Because he was out of minor league options, the Blue Jays had to make room for him on the big league roster or risk losing him for nothing. They ended up trading him to the Orioles for some international bonus pool money, which was better than nothing if they didn’t have a place for him on their 25-man roster.
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However, when he started out in March/April by slashing .276/.325/.486 with five home runs, seven doubles, and 19 RBI, the early returns on the decision didn’t look so good. Couple that with the fact that the Blue Jays’ outfield was horrific in the early going of the season, and it left a lot of us wondering how Smith Jr. could have been let go when the outfield need still existed.
What we always need to remember (myself included) is that a 162 game baseball season is really, really long, and just because someone has a good or bad month doesn’t mean the world is on fire. For example, some folks were ready to give up on Lourdes Gurriel Jr. earlier this season and now he’s a significant piece of this core after a position change.
As for Smith Jr., unfortunately a lot did change for him as his season wore on in Baltimore, and his final stats likely won’t have any fans feeling the sting of regret. To be fair, his season was derailed when he suffered a concussion in June and had to miss a significant chunk of time, but he ended up with a -0.8 bWAR rating over 100 games and a .244/.300/.416 slash line to go with 13 home runs, 16 doubles, and 53 RBI.
It’s entirely possible that Smith Jr. would have finished with regrettable numbers for the Blue Jays without his mid-season injury, but that’s the way baseball goes. The same could be said for others like Anthony Alford, Devon Travis, or even Dalton Pompey, who have repeatedly had injuries interrupt their careers. It’s tough to plan for that part, and hopefully Smith Jr. can be healthy going forward regardless of where he’s playing.
As for whether Blue Jays fans should lament his loss on the 40 man roster, I think time has given us some pretty good perspective. If they hadn’t traded him away before the season began then he likely would have been DFA’d at some point throughout this season, or worse, perhaps Gurriel Jr. never makes it to the outfield when he was struggling at second base. And even though the Blue Jays could still use one more outfielder to grab ahold of a place with the next era of this team, I don’t know that Smith Jr. ultimately would have been that guy anyway.
Sometimes, things just work out for a reason, and with all due respect to Smith Jr., with the benefit of hindsight it was probably a little silly for some of us to get wound up about this back in April.