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.