While the Blue Jays embark on their latest rebuild, there are a couple of veterans who could get traded this year, including the quietly valuable Justin Smoak.
This past summer the Blue Jays shipped out several veteran contracts including J.A. Happ, Curtis Granderson, Roberto Osuna, and more. That trend could continue this winter as the Jays look to get younger on the field, which could mean others like Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar, Yangervis Solarte, and others could be on the trade block.
Perhaps the most valuable name the Blue Jays could shop this offseason would be Justin Smoak, who has just one year remaining on his current contract, slated to pay him eight million in 2019 before becoming a free agent after next season.
Smoak has named the Blue Jays’ MVP for a second straight year in 2018, as the switch-hitter has become a consistent source of offensive production. His ability to hit for both power and average is valuable, and he’s also known for having a pretty solid glove at first base as well.
That said, the value of slugging first baseman has changed quite a bit in the last few seasons. We’ve watched teams go from consistently spending on the corner power position on the infield, to trying to get by in a much cheaper way. If you don’t believe that, just look at the fact that Red Sox had several options last winter, and elected to re-sign Mitch Moreland, or that Logan Morrison‘s 38 home runs in 2017 didn’t land him anything more than a one year, 6.5 million dollar deal.
Smoak’s case is a little bit different than many first base options around the league, and hopefully the Blue Jays can parlay that into a decent trade return. In fact, his case was pretty well profiled already at mlbtraderumours.com, including a list of teams that would make sense as trade partners including the Rockies, Mariners, Twins, and A’s. It’s all speculation, but each trade makes sense on some level.
If Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro take trade offers for the slugger, they’ll be able to remind rival GM’s of the value of a commitment of just one year, both in not spending too much on the position in an evolving league, and so that the position isn’t blocked by an expensive, aging veteran.
He’s also a switch-hitter who is capable of producing at both sides of the plate. Platooning has become a pretty popular thing at first base in recent seasons as well, so Smoak’s ability to start all the time is helpful to the 25 man roster. He had a OBP of .366 against righties and .318 against lefties in 2018. Those numbers were much different, but still encouraging in 2017, as he had an OBP of .338 against righties, and .413 against lefties.
However, perhaps the easiest selling point is the fact that he’s making just eight million next season. When you consider that other potential available first basemen like Paul Goldschmidt will make 14.5 million next season and Jose Abreu will make 16 million (and they’ll both command a bigger trade package), and Smoak becomes that much more interesting, and valuable as a trade candidate.