There is no other way to put it, Justin Smoak has had a bad 2016 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays. With his platoon services not needed since the suspension of Chris Colabello, Smoak has had to settle into being the Blue Jays primary first baseman and the results have not been pretty.
.220/.313/.403 with an OPS of .703
Smoak’s slash line for the 2016 season does not come off as completely horrid but analyzing other aspects of his game really paint the picture of how poor of a season Smoak is having.
33.2K% – 30.2% Outside Zone Swing Rate (Career high) & .137 AVG with RISP
The numbers above are the result of taking a player most valuable in a platoon role and moving them to be the everyday first baseman. Smoak’s weaknesses that flashed in Texas and Seattle are rearing their ugly head again, only this time it is for the 68-52 Blue Jays and as much as the fanbase would like to see Smoak demoted or even released, the reality is that their is no quick solution in sight. Here are a list of potential “solutions” and why they wouldn’t work.
1) DFA Justin Smoak
There is no scenario where the Blue Jays decide to designate for assignment Smoak who is fresh off a $8.2 million dollar extension. While there is no denying that Smoak is having a poor season, Smoak does offer value as a potential option off the bench for next season, as seen last season when Smoak enjoyed an 18HR season while platooning first base with Chris Colabello.
2) Move Jose Bautista to First Base
The armchair manager’s favourite game plan – simply move Melvin Upton to right field and move Bautista to first base full time. The only problem with this move is Bautista has never shown that he is comfortable with first base, and it cannot be expected to be a transition made over night. Bautista has played one game at first base this season, zero last season and only 25 games at first over his career. This move would be best suited for Out of the Park Baseball and not for a team in the midst of fighting for the AL East.
3) Call up Chris Colabello
Replacing a turd with a turd with sprinkles on top does not change the fact that it is still a turd. Replacing Smoak with Chris Colabello would do more to hurt the ball club than improve it. Since his return from suspension, Colabello has batted .183/.253/.293 for an OPS of .546 while carrying a 35.2K% for the Buffalo Bisons. It is obvious that Colabello has still not mentally defeated his demons surrounding his suspension and a call up to the big league club would be the worst move for the team and Colabello.
4) Call up Jesus Montero
Jesus Montero has been absolutely crushing the baseball down in Buffalo, carrying a .314/.339/.447 slash line along with 11 Home Runs and 41 RBIs, while this will almost certainly warrant a September call up, Montero is still far from the answer at first base. Montero bats right and inserting Montero into the everyday line up would leave Michael Saunders as the only everyday lefty. Having eight right handed batters and only one left handed batter leaves the Blue Jays vulnerable to be overpowered by a right handed pitcher. Montero has also flashed the same problems as Smoak at the big league level, batting only .223 with the Mariners last season and carries a career 19.9K%.
Looking ahead, The MLB waiver trade deadline does offer some hope that the Blue Jays can acquire another first baseman but the market has yet to heat up. Perhaps it is not out of the question that the Blue Jays pull off a blockbuster deal for Joey Votto, although his salary would be a major roadblock.Until then, the Blue Jays and fans may have to keep endearing the usual sight of Smoak striking out or stranded runners in scoring position .