Trade interest in Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak is “picking up,” tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman connected the Indians to Smoak earlier today, and Nicholson-Smith adds the Rays as a team of interest as well. Several contenders have expressed interest in Smoak, per Nicholson-Smith. Notably, he’s not in the lineup tonight for the Blue Jays.
Toronto has been one of the few clear sellers on the summer market, having already departed with Marcus Stroman and David Phelps in the past 48 hours. The 32-year-old Smoak, a free agent following the 2019 season, is a logical player to deal away, too, even if the return on him doesn’t prove overwhelming. Smoak won’t be a candidate to receive a qualifying offer, so there’s added incentive to take the most appealing option presented between now and tomorrow afternoon’s trade deadline.
The switch-hitting Smoak’s batting average is down this season, but he’s walking at a career-best 16.7 percent clip and once again demonstrating above-average power. In 359 plate appearances, he’s hit .215/.357/.427 — good for a 110 OPS+ and a 108 wRC+ (which is to say he’s been about eight to ten percent better than league average from an offensive standpoint, even after accounting for his hitter-friendly home park). Smoak’s 19.8 percent strikeout rate is actually the lowest of his career, and he’s not popping up at an exorbitant level either. Rather, the key to his diminished average could be a fluky .220 average on balls in play (which checks in well south of his career .267 level).
Smoak is earning a reasonable $8MM salary in 2019 with about $2.71MM of that sum yet to be paid out between now and season’s end. With the Jays dealing away short-term assets, it seems likely that Smoak will be wearing a new uniform this time tomorrow.