Blue Jays claim Justin Smoak

 The Toronto Blue Jays have claimed first baseman Justin Smoak off waivers from the Seattle Mariners both teams announced on Tuesday morning. Smoak was originally the key piece acquired by Seattle when they sent star hurler to the Texas Rangers in a 2010 trade. Smoak earned $2.6375 million in 2014 and was an obvious non-tender candidate this winter. However he was due a $150,000 buy-out on a $3.65 million club option for 2015 that was going to require a decision after the conclusion of the World Series. The Blue Jays will now be responsible for that buy-out should they decline his option. Smoak is entering his second season of arbitration and can be team controlled through 2016.

The switch-hitter posted a .202/.275/.339 triple-slash in 276 plate appearances at the big league level in 2014. Smoak spent over one third of the season with Triple-A Tacoma where he posted a 138 wRC+ in 249 plate appearances. The 27-year old had spent parts of five seasons in the Mariners organization but the former first-round draft pick failed to meet expectations. Smoak owns a 94 wRC+ in 2218 career plate appearances, 1943 were which the M’s, and struggled with finding consistency in the batter’s box on a regular basis.

Logan Morrison snatched the first base job from Smoak after returning from early season injuries and saw the bulk of the regular playing time. Smoak figured to be expendable after LoMo seized the job and the club used their final option on the former top prospect in 2014. Should the Blue Jays, or any other club, wish to send Smoak to Triple-A in 2015 the first baseman would have to pass through waivers first.

There’s been rumors circulating that Toronto is interested in moving one of their first base/designated hitter types in left-hander Adam Lind who is also due a decision on his 2015 club option worth $7.5 million. It seems likely that Lind will be dealt in the near future after the acquisition of Smoak.

Seattle opens a spot on their 40-man roster with Smoak out of the picture and are likely to add depth at first base during the offseason. They also saved the $150,000 buy-out on his club option that was a lock to be declined. It’s speculated that the Jays will decline the option and renegotiate a smaller deal.

The final piece remaining from the Lee trade is starter Blake Beavan who has struggled with a myriad of shoulder issues and missed most of the 2014 season.

As Smoak turns 28, it appears unlikely that he is going to make it as an everyday first baseman, however a change of scenery could reignite some of the power that still exists in his bat.

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Tyler Carmont

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36 Comments

  1. @Nighthawk

    No worries man I figure it was something along those lines. A ton of imports comming in more and more every year a lot to take in. If I had a dream offseason Kang as a SS, Maeda as a SP, Butler at DH and D. Young as your 4th OF. Peterson earns a spot at 1B and Morrison to the OF with Granderson and the hopes of a young M stepping up.

  2. That was my fault I had read something about the Cuban 2b who had just defected and confused them both you are right I was way off on my part. I will say Im of the notion when it comes to the power hitting korean or Japanese players that have come over have not really lived up to their power reputation. Now Matsui (the best asian power hitter) had hit 30 hr once and 21 or more in 5 years of his 10 so yes he did have power but his Godzilla nickname earned in Japan but did not translate well. Plus he hit left handed in yankee stadium with that short porch in right definitely helped those hr totals.

    Having said all that Kang very well could be a great 2b but someone with that profile .270 15-20hr would be one of the best “FA” available and would be talked about way more than he has been. Of all the 14 Korean players that have played in the Majors only 2 have been position players (Hee Seop Choi and Shin-Soo Choo). Most of their careers have averaged roughly 4 years and most of those havent even lasted that long. Choo is more of an american product anyway having signed with the M’s as a teenager and developed through the minors. He and Ryu are the only active Korean players in the Majors right now also. Pitching has definitely been Korean players strong suit with the likes of Chan Ho Park, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Byung-Hyun Kim.

    Again though you were right I was wrong on the slap hitting comment I take it back and I get what your overall point was. As for butler I never said anything other than the writing is practically on the wall for him to be signed by the M’s and nothing about positional block on him and Peterson. While you probably were replying to another I just wanted to point that out.

    Cheers,
    Nighthawk180

  3. @Nighthawk180

    A slap hitting second baseman? What research have you actually done on Korean 2B Jung-Ho Kang? He had 39 HR last season 25 the year before and 22 before that. He is a power hitting second baseman that can hit for average. his only concern among scouts is his high over exaggerated leg kick. He should translate into a .270 hitter with 15-20 HR. Yes the M’s don’t have a spot for him. But was using him more of an example than an actual M’s target.

    Butler would not block Peterson. Morrison would stay in the OF when Peterson gets promoted.

  4. Butler is going to be the wildcard. I don’t want anything to do with him, but the FO might, especially that he is now a UFA

  5. Cuddyer just got the qualifying offer from Colorado. No way we give up a first round pick to sign that guy. Thankfully you can cross that guy off your offseason shopping list.

  6. By the way: Rios and Butler are pretty interesting guys if the price is right. I don’t think anyone would be pleased with those two being our entire offseason. But there just aren’t that many ‘ideal’ options, and most of those ideal options carry very significant risk. Signing Butler or Rios to a team-friendly deal wouldn’t be the worst idea. Don’t let the Cory Hart failure deter you, M’s fans! Sometimes those contracts pay off bigtime. The nice thing is: if they don’t, you just move to other options.

  7. One potentially interesting move: sign Hanley Ramirez and move him to the OF.

    He’s been pretty adamant about not wanting to move off of SS, but I think that decision will be made for him this offseason. People seem to be operating on the assumption that he’ll shift to 3B. He could be a solid corner OFer, tho. He’s always been pretty fast. It’s unlikely, but would be worth pursuing. Ramirez would definitely fit into the lineup at either 3 or 4.

  8. Last thing I want is a declining Rios and his whopping 4 homers and a rapidly declining DH only RH bat, where safeco negates any power that is left in his bat (which isn’t much).

    Has to be better options out there. As a previous poster said, Scott Van Slyke would be better.

  9. Billy Butler didn’t just have an off year in 2014. 2013 was an off year too, by comparison with 2009-2012… His slugging percentage was .412 in 2013, and it was .379 last year. And the guy tends to ground into quite a few double plays. He might be an over Kendrys Morales, but he might not, and the M’s could do better looking elsewhere. Buyer beware on Butler.

  10. Paul Martin I see your point , but one or both of those guys may surprise us next year .

  11. Hackinator, neither one of those guys are going to help us in 2015. With Cano and King Felix in their prime years, we need to add offensive talent to bridge the gap and help us win next year.

  12. Dont we have two “Butler type” players in Kivlehan and Peterson? Why block them?

  13. Safeco field is an ideal destination for a pitcher to come on a one year deal, put up good numbers, and re-enter the market. I am confident Jack will find some rotation depth without using a lot of money. We can use our resources to improve the offense.

  14. They need at least one and preferably two rotation arms for depth. Elias and Walker both have options left and are not ready to pitch full seasons yet and it would be useful to have at least one of them in Tacoma or the bullpen to cover almost certain DL losses. They could both benefit from being rotated between the rotation or Tacoma to reduce their innings. Ramirez, Beavan or Hultzen just can’t be counted on at this point. Ideally you need eight rotation caliber arms available. They need to pick up one or two from the second or third tier of free agents or an equivalent in trade.
    Cuddyer and Melky Cabrera look like the two best cost/value bat signings to me, I kind of agree with Dave Cameron when he said; “I think the Victor Martinez contract could easily be a disaster. He’s going to get 4/70 or something from someone, maybe the Mariners, and it’s not going to go well.” As for Rios and his 4 dingers this past season, Montero could do better than that I believe.

  15. Why would the M’s even be interested in the Korean 2b in the first place? He doesnt have a spot and is a slap hitter at that. His defense is solid but he doesnt translate to SS and we already have 2 players (miller, Taylor) and another in Ketel Marte waiting in the wings. No need to waste money on him.

    The ideal scenario would probably be Victor Martinez and Tomas the two top offensive FA in the market but that most likely wont happen. The Butler connection is overwhelmingly gonna happen with the M’s love affair with him the past few years. Then they need some OF help which could very well be Tomas or in another case be a lower tier such as a Cuddyer or a Rios both of whom are getting up there in age and could fall of the cliff soon.

    The Trade market scares me a little and here’s why. The M’s are in a position now that they have a slightly better than average team with a few holes in it already. To make a trade you have to give talent to get it. There have been less and less cliff lee type trades in the recent past. The M’s cant afford to trade from their major league roster without creating a different hole for which they have to fill. The Farm has been used a lot in the past couple of years leaving a lack of expendable talents that might be worth more to the M’s then actual trade value for others. Trades would work if the M’s didnt have as many holes to patch and a “thicker” farm from which to trade with but the top guys we have currently will and do have positions from which the M’s need to fill. The trade better be overwhelmingly in our favor for them to pull the trigger in my opinion of course.

  16. Why we would want a 34 yo outfielder who hit 4 home runs, .700 OPS, and is in decline is beyond me. I’d rather manuever a trade for someone with upside such as Scott Van Slyke and his .900 OPS.

  17. Cuddyer could be a target as well. I would be amazed if the M’s go after any of the next batch of imporgs. Tomas could be in the 90-100 mill range. The Korean kid could be in the 70 range. And Maeda for a SP may get more than what Tanaka got. M’s could get 2-3 guys who are MLB veterans. Like the previous mentioned Butler, Rios or Cuddyer. The M’s had a good season last year with improvements from who we have and some upgrades that dont need to be huge flashy. The M’s have a solid division shot.

    This is me being realisctic. I would love the M’s to sign both Tomas and 2B from Korea and Butler. But.Not going to happen.

  18. When I suggested we sign Butler, it is with the understanding we reached out to Martinez of Detroit first and he either wasn’t interested or insisted on 4 years and crazy $$$. Rather than sign Rios for the outfield, the big splashy move after signing Butler is outbidding everyone for 24 year old Cuban outfielder Tomas. Butler and Tomas sounds a lot better to me…

  19. so the hope is that Rios pretends its 2009, and Butler pretends 2014 didn’t happen? I’ve seen worse plans, but I expect the M’s to make a more-likely-to-be-an-upgrade upgrade at at least one of those two postiions.

  20. Rios option has been declined as well. Reports last season had the M’s interested there. Butler.Add to DH Rios into the OF. And hope to hit on a SP like Young again this next season with Paxton and Walker for a full year. Looks like a team with a shot.

  21. Butler officially a free agent! Time to break the ice and offer a 3 year 30 million dollar contract to bring him to seattle!

  22. That’s right. The M’s didn’t ruin Smoak, or Montero, or Ackley, or the longer shots Catricala, or Romero, or Peguero, or…

    They all just refused to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

    There’s nothing wrong withthe M’s that kidnapping Mike Trout wouldn’t fix.

  23. I think we can all agree that the M’s didn’t ‘ruin’ Smoak. Prospects don’t turn out all the time. That’s baseball. Could the M’s have done something differently that may have lead to his success? Sure. But we simply have no way of knowing that. I have zero doubts that Seattle exhausted everything they could think of and then some with Smoak. He was there for nearly five years. If it’s ever going to happen, it wasn’t going to be in Seattle.

  24. Ms certainly didn’t ruin Smoak. I’m with Ed man on this one.

  25. Geez Phillip, drawing rash conclusions that the Mariners ruined Smoak. Where is Justin’s personal responsibility to meet his potential? You can put a person in all the classes you want, but if the subject matter is over their head, it’s not the fault of the instructors. The Mariners did everything they could for Smoak, he just didn’t retain what he was taught.

  26. With this and the report that are out of K.C. that they will NOT pick up the extension on B. Butler. We all have heard how much th M’s have wanted Butler for some time. Now he can be had as just a F/A signing. Puting Morrison at 1B and Butler at DH. The M’s major needs would be OF and another SP. Wish list for a good price would be a more proven SS and maintaining that dominant bullpen.

  27. I wonder what the M’s will do at 1B. Morrison showed some flashes of being a good player last year, but he was inconsistent and has trouble staying healthy. We can’t count on him.

    I’m hoping the M’s can bring in a DH who can play a bit of 1B, plus add another guy for depth. Perhaps a similar player to Smoak: ex top prospect who never really figured it out. They need to hedge their bets, and there isn’t anyone in the farm system who will likely help the club in 2015. At least not right away.

    Victor Martinez would be perfect. Billy Butler would also be a good fit.

  28. Smoak had plenty of opportunities to provide the M”s with the offense his pedigree suggested he would. For whatever reason, he never got it going, except for the little bursts he showed here and there. The Mariners need offense, and he wasn’t giving them that, so I think this was a necessary business decision on the part of the team. If he can consistently against right-handed pitching hit like he did in 2013, maybe the Jays will have something. Somehow, I think that’s a big “if”. Nonetheless I wish him good fortune in Toronto.

  29. I saw too many of Smoak’s good stretches to think the talent isn’t there. I suspect Safeco got into his head and then the lack of success. It would not surprise me at all if he busts out in his “prime” years of 28-29. But it was time. Almost 2,900 ABs, mostly at the major league level, is enough.

    Fortunately, the M’s are now at the point where we don’t want a project, which he still is. We need two proven hitters to man 1B and DH (and maybe OF). Smoak had chances, and didn’t prove himself to be one of those hitters. He is not what is best for the M’s in 2015.

    I wish him well.

  30. Extremely hard to fault a team for a hitter’s poor development when we don’t know everything involved. There’s already the fact that the impact of hitting coaches, etc. varies from player to player. Maybe this was never the environment for Smoak to succeed. Maybe he hits better elsewhere. Who knows. But the team can’t be blamed for his lack of success. He was given all the opportunity and then some.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more of a between the ears thing for Smoak. Guy never looks confident at the plate.

  31. Can we have Adam Lind?

  32. We didn’t ruin a good hitter, Smoak sucks and never amounted to anything and likely never will. So glad we can turn the page on this guy, even if we should have dumped him a year or two ago. As for Blake Beavan, I believe he is a free agent now, and May or may not end up back in Tacoma. Good move by Seattle!

  33. I was really hoping Smoak would be the player everyone thought he would be. Switch hitting 1B with power from both sides, average “D”. Just could never be consistent though. Wish him well.

  34. Watch Smoak figure it out and just blow up this next season. Proof that we ruined a good hitter. I hope Im wrong but it feels like history is out to get us.

  35. What Smoak figure it out and just blow up this next season. Proof that we ruined a good hitter. I hope Im wrong but it feels like history is out to get us.

  36. Good luck Justin. He was pretty much rushed through the minors by the Rangers. The M’s pretty much had to play him after being the Lee centerpiece. Did that attention and lack of seasoning effect his performance? I don’t know, but he tried and I wish him luck, and I think it’s a move the M’s needed to make.

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