JANUARY 6: The deal is now complete and will promise Smoak $6MM, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).
DECEMBER 29: Free-agent first baseman Justin Smoak is nearing a contract with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, Jeff Passan of ESPN reports. Smoak will earn a guaranteed $6MM to $7MM if the deal goes through.
The 34-year-old Smoak divided last season between the Brewers and Giants (San Francisco, not Yomiuri) and posted a brutal .162/.250/.361 line with five home runs in 132 plate appearances. Smoak’s strikeout rate (31.8) was the second-highest figure of his career and a 10-plus percent increase over the number he recorded in 2019 with the Blue Jays. Considering his weak production from 2020, Smoak would have been hard-pressed to approach his agreement with Yomiuri in value had he stayed in the majors in 2021, so it’s no surprise the switch hitter is on his way to Japan to collect a larger paycheck and perhaps rebuild his stock for big league teams.
If this is the last we’ve seen of Smoak in MLB, though, he’ll go down as someone who had an up-and-down tenure at the game’s highest level. The 11th overall pick of the Rangers in 2008 and once among Baseball America’s top 15 prospects, Smoak has seen major league action with five teams (the Mariners are the other). Smoak was at his best in Toronto from 2017-18, when he slashed .256/.353/.495 with 63 home runs and a 128 wRC+ across 1,231 trips to the plate. He hasn’t come close to matching that form since then, however.
He going to absolutely mash overseas, even if he most likely won’t in the MLB ever again
I Beg To Differ
Someone would say he’s going to smoak the competition.
I’ll see myself out.
How is that “nice” it’s a dumb lazy easy pun
Some people like puns… Justin case you didn’t know.
You’re a dumb easy lazy pun
You’re just mad because you didn’t get to post it first! 🙂
The other guy got here justin time
Smoak is going to get smoked in Japan.
Justin’s hitting was real streaky. He was hot as an ember but then it would go up in Smoak and disappear.
It’s sad that no one in the MLB, wanted that Smoak.
If he destroys pitching in Japan and MLB has a universal DH, he will definitely be back.
If he does well I think his age, inconsistency, and platoon splits will make many clubs hesitant to bring him back even with a universal DH. Maybe a minor league deal, but I’d be surprised.
Stranger things have happened, and if I’m wrong then good for him.
If he does it’ll be Justin time!
Will mike Fiers join him? Where there’s Smoak there’s Fiers *giggle*
Most AL clubs use the DH slot for rotation. It’s better to add another position player who can play the field, such as another OFer and rotate them through. That’s why Ozuna is a good DH candidate. You can plan to DH him but you can also put him out in the field when needed. Even the Yankees planned to rotate their OFers through the DH spot with Stanton before he became brittle. My point is I don’t think Smoak is DH material. A player needs to be Nelson Cruz or Stanton to block the DH slot full time.
I would think he is mostly a glove and not a bat. He will probably make the club’s plan around him because he CAN put the ball a long way into the stands. Not sure what his D metrics were on the other teams but he was way better than his uzr and other stats said. I like the old fashioned eye test over some of those stats especially the D ones. I believe they have gotten better. Smoak was a decent defender in Seattle.
You got to go where they pay you what you deserved and what you are entitled to, period…
Well Justin Bour certainly didn’t mash at all in Japan, so we’ll see about Smoak.
He should have signed a minor league deal with the Mets. Obviously he won’t have a spot but if someone gets injured and he comes up for a little he would get the ring when the Mets win. He’ll have fun in Japan regardless. It’s a nice place and he’ll be elite.
No! Be gone!
@warkmohlers I was thinking the same thing, dudes going hit like 40 bombs over there haha. Good for him, 6-7mm is a lot better than AAA at his age.
How so? There are many bigger Japanese players out there too.
Hosmer for HOF
Actually it’s 6-7M doll hairs mlbtr.. Don’t know why they’d offer him anything more than that
Wow, quite a payday for a guy who might’ve been looking at a minor league deal in MLB. Wonder if the struggling financial times might see even more fringe types moving to play overseas.
For this off-season the site should be renamed NPB/KBO rumors.
That is where players are going. So they report it. Wtf do you expect
Dude, chill out any stop beating your dog
Gotta give his agent credit for hustling 6-7 million dollars out of that team.
He’s probably only worth a ST invite.
Ha! Well said! Hope he does mash it there, but sometimes players just can’t adapt to the different style of play, the instant pressure placed upon them and understandable lack of patience from teams in their mercenaries.
tom brunanskys black sock
It’s the wrong tone.
Huge deal for him, great work by his agent to get that big money and after he mashes like 60 homers in Japan he will come back to a MLB that has a universal DH and enough time to get in a nice second run in the bigs.
Ah yes, that fantastic second run at 35-36 years old. Gonna make bank!
@Marty McRae No chance he hits 60 HR’s in Japan. Happy to revisit this post after the 2021 season is concluded.
Wow, nice guarantee for him. Always liked him as a prospect. College bat with great discipline, power, average.
wow solid guarantee
I was always so annoyed with Smoak during his first two years in Toronto. He was a low average, strikeout machine that made me pull out my hair. Then in 2017 he turned those around and became a favourite of mine on the team and I’ve been rooting for him since. I hope he crushes over in Japan and maybe we’ll see him again. If this is the end in North America though, it was a solid little career for a guy who seemed real nice and humble. I know that he’s really close with Kevin Pillar, maybe one day they’ll be teammates over there even.
Totally agree. Happy smoakie is getting some money. I think he’s days in the MLB are over but I sure enjoyed him SMOAKING balls out of Rogers centre
Doesn’t specify that it’s a one year contract. For that much coin, maybe it’s longer deal?
Sayonara Smokie, don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Smoak is a perfect example of why you never overvalue your prospects. Smoak and Blake Beaven were what my Rangers paid for Cliff Lee. Neither Smoak nor Beaven ever made my Rangers regret the deal.
I Beg To Differ
Don’t stop. Beaven. Hold on to that feeeellllinnnnnn.
Wool E. Bull
Don’t forget Josh Lueke!!!!!
Wool E. Bull
To be fair, the Rangers traded for a half season of a very average Cliff Lee. In 15 games with them he only won 4 games, going 4-6 with a 4 ERA… also picking up 2 losses in the World Series, albeit still a great year for TX with a World Series appearance! But no one seemed to “win” that trade.
Wool E. Bull:
To be fair? Your take wasn’t at all fair. And it’s exactly why most knowledgeable baseball fans do not judge a pitcher by W/L record, and use only ERA in context with FIP and ERA+, at least for the regular season. His FIP for Tex was 2.99, so the fault for that 4.00 ERA (which isn’t bad at all, BTW), is clearly shared by the defense playing behind him.
Nice of you to cherry-pick what he did in the WS, and ignore the rest of the PS, where he went 3 and 2. It’s doubtful the Rangers even get to the WS without him. He pitched 16 innings over 2 games against the Rays for 2 wins, one was a CG. Then he shutout the Yankees in an 8 inning outing.
Any pitcher can have a bad PS, just ask Kershaw. Max Scherzer didn’t fair well against the Giants in the 2012 PS. Verlander is 0-6 with a 5.68 ERA in the WS. The Rangers would make that trade again knowing what they know now, and by any estimation, they clearly won that trade.
Lee also gave the Rangers some length they needed in the regular season. He gave them over 100 innings in his 15 starts, and his WHIP was only 1..06.
There’s no doubt in my mind that my Rangers wouldn’t have made it to the World Series without Cliff Lee’s contributions. I’d make that trade again in a heartbeat.
Smoak always had that run to where you thought he’d figured it out. Would come from nowhere them be gone after a few weeks or a month. (was what my bad pun up top was about)
It was his third or fourth year here he started the season on fire was hot for a month then was lucky he had a decent glove. The announcers talked about how hard he worked. Zunino was just like that too. Maybe a flaw in development or called up to fast or both. They like to call guys up to soon. Hopefully they are patient with our young guys as much as we want to see them let them be ready.
I can’t see that money being the right figure. Who were they bidding against to drive it up to 6-7 mil
I figure the only competition was Smoak’s own leverage – Yomiuri having to convince him to move overseas. “If I don’t make x, I’ll just stay in the US with the career $30M I’ve made.”
Other than that, I have no idea if he had other suitors in NPB… anyway from the comments looks like a 2-yr deal. Good for him
I beg… that was a reach… funny but a reach lol
If i remember correctly hes had trouble with breaking balls, so is japan really the place
I’ve seen some reports on Twitter that Yomiuri also signed Eric Thames today. Interesting combo if true, but somewhat wondering if they were mistaken on which ex-Brewers/Jays first baseman they signed as I haven’t seen it nearly as widely reported as the Smoak signing.
Damn everyone going overseas lowkey kinda watch their games this season
During the excellent years in Toronto Smoak was seeing a sports psychologist and taking adderall. Adderall is a PED. Google tor star adderall for a great article on it.
And he should’ve been traded before the 2017 deadline with his career year, team control and price tag. And Donaldson.
Complete and Utter Nonsense Jimmer!
It’s what Jimmer does best.
Jaysfan, during that time Smoak admitted in an interview that he was seeing a counsellor and coincidentally his swing got real fast that year after 3000 at bats in the bigs. That doesn’t happen naturally. This two years are an outlier and anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that doesn’t happen naturally.
It doesn’t sound as if you understand how steroids work. A swing doesn’t get faster just from taking a steroid. Steroids work by healing the body faster, allowing strenuous workouts more often. Guys can lift weights every day, instead of the usual every other day. But the player still has to do the work, steroids or not. The added muscle mass does not suddenly go away when steroids are discontinued. If his bat was faster after taking steroids his bat should have still been fast.
Those two years, when he averaged a 127 OPS+, are not the outlier you make them out to be. Those happen to be the years he was most healthy. And looking at his age it’s reasonable those were the peak years of his prime. But he also had a 113 OPS+ in 2013, and a 105 in 2015.
He was a streaky, eradicate hitter, who put together a couple of nice, but not great seasons, and seemingly fell of a cliff at age 33. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that does happen quite often.
Adderall use is rampant among MLB players, so Smoak could hardly be singled out on that front. Adderall use also doesn’t explain why he only had one great year like you seem to want it to, since we can safely assume 2017 wouldn’t have been the only year he was taking it.
Adderall, a stimulant by the way, would greatly help his reaction and how well he can see the ball. He’d be able to make split second decisions on whether to swing or not a lot easier. His brain, on overdrive, would also have an advantage on the cat and mouse at the plate.
SCHWING and A Miss
Holy Smoak…That’s got 50 homeruns written all over it!
Peart of the game
Smoak will be replacing either Gerardo Parra or Zelous Wheeler
Smoak will always remind me of Giants fans pulling their hair out, debating whether the Giants should draft Smoak or…….Buster Posey.
Smoak is absolutely ass. He’s not strong enough or good enough, and never really was.
Hey Kyle would Love to see you say that to his face bub!
I’d tell him he was ass in Seattle. He can’t do what I do, so why should I care that I cant do what he does?
Good luck Smoak.
Signing with Toronto saved Smoak’s career. If he had gone anywhere else and put up the numbers he did in Seattle we would not be talking about him today
I remember when this guy was the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee return for the Mariners just never really quite lived up to the huge prospect pedigree
Whats amazing is the Rangers literally churned out 3 everyday 1B in Smoak, Chris Davis, and Mitch Moreland at virtually the same time and now have a revolving door at the position (lets see if Lowe can be the guy to take the spot and run with it)
Good deal for Smoak. He wasn’t getting 6-7M in the States come 2021.
Always seemed like a nice guy here in Toronto. Glad to see him get a nice deal to keep playing, but not here in Toronto.
This dude rakes and hits bombs.
He still outslugged Chris Davis last year by 188 points
My grandma can match Davis’ with her cane.
Going by last years salaries in the NPB, if smoakies contract is for 1 year he is japans highest paid player
Japan times says 2 years
How wonder how well they are expecting him to perform
How also wonder how much you’ve been blazin dude.
That feels like an oddly massive guarantee for an MLBer headed to Japan, with Smoak’s good but not great track record. He’s an average power hitter with a low batting average.
How’d he get $6M? Guys who sign these deals tend to get like $3-4M over there, it seems.
Good for him, though!
It does seem like a lot for a Japanese-league team to pay. His bat should play well there if he hasn’t aged out. His recent numbers aren’t good, so it’s possible he’s done. Dropping down a level to a slightly less competitive league won’t necessarily mask a slowing bat.
He wouldn’t get $6M in MLB at this stage, so he is no doubt happy to find another pot of gold over in Asia. If he has a big year, some MLB will have interest in 2022.
Used to play little league with he and Reese havens. They were hitting 300 foot homers at age 11.
Solid money for a guy that can no longer make a MLB roster
6m for that boring stiff? Seriously?
$6M? Yea, he was not going to get that in the states. Wise decision to go to Japan.
This has to be for r 2 years? Guys don’t get $6M a season there.