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.