Of all the players to sign to a two-year contract extension on the Blue Jays roster, Justin Smoak would be one of the unlikeliest.
Although he’s a decent defender at first base and a switch-hitting first baseman with pop, Justin Smoak isn’t exactly high on the Blue Jays’ priority list. Well, evidently not. His two-year/$8.25 million dollar deal (with club option) now ensures Smoak will be with the Blue Jays for the foreseeable future.
“Why?” is the question which many are asking about this puzzling contract extension. Why re-sign a guy like Smoak who’s been a replacement-level player thus far in 2016?
Do Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays front office staff value Smoak’s defense that much that the club needed to give that kind guaranteed money to Smoak? To his credit, he has a great glove, but is it really worth more than $4 million dollars a season?
In the grand scheme of things, Justin Smoak’s contract is peanuts compared to other deals on the Blue Jays’ payroll. It’s not the dollar amount I take issue with; it’s the fact that Justin Smoak has a guaranteed roster spot for the next two seasons, when he’s done very little this year to earn that roster spot.
Given, the first base free agent class this offseason is very thin. But at the very least, you’d think either Chris Colabello or someone from the minor leagues could fill the void at first base for at least the 2017 season. I’m not sure why the Jays deemed it necessary to lock themselves into Justin Smoak for two more years.
There is the possibility that the Jays are merely trying to get ahead of the market and sign Smoak now before they have to pay an exorbitant amount for a first baseman this offseason.
At this point, Justin Smoak has been relegated as a left-handed platoon partner and late-game defensive replacement. Unless an injury takes place, I don’t see any reason for that to change this year, as well as 2017 and 2018.
$4.125 million annually might seem like a lot for one-half of a first baseman, but in 2018 when salaries are even higher for first baseman, that dollar amount for Smoak might not look as bad.
If we’re going by FanGraphs dollar value, Justin Smoak posted 0.6 WAR last season, which was worth $4.19 million dollars. In 83 games this season, Smoak has posted 0.2 WAR, which has been worth $1.3 million dollars. In that respect, the money for Smoak isn’t all that egriegous, as the cost per win is steadily increasing.
That is of course assuming that Justin Smoak hasn’t been designated for assignment by then, because he seemed dangerously close to being non-tendered this offseason.
Which is why I have difficulty grasping how a player can go from nearly being left off the roster to receiving a two-year contract extension with a club opti0n.
I very much doubt this Smoak deal has anything to do with the future of Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion. These things are completely unrelated, and in no way does Smoak’s contract signal the end of the line for Edwin or Jose.
In addition to “why?”, I wonder “why now?” to ink Justin Smoak to a new deal. I suppose if he and his agent were ready to sign now for a reasonable amount, there’s no need to draw out the process any further. But I’d much rather wait until season’s end to have a full body of Smoak’s work rather than gamble mid-way through the season.
Teams aren’t exactly tripping over themselves to acquire the services of Justin Smoak, a predominantly glove-first first baseman at a position which replacement-level players are a dime a dozen. So why the need to extend this one in particular?
Ultimately, Justin Smoak’s new contract hardly moves the needle in the way of payroll commitment for the Jays, as it does the overall impact on the roster. But boy, did this deal seem unnecessary.