The Milwaukee Brewers have found someone to replace Eric Thames at first base. The team has signed Justin Smoak to a one-year, $4 million deal, pending a physical. The pact includes a club option for 2021 for $5.5 million; this can be bought out for $1 million.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan was all over the news while Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jon Heyman of MLB Network also shared key pieces of the report.
Justin Smoak’s contract with Milwaukee includes a club option for $5.5 million in 2021. He’ll be paid $4 million this year, and the option has a $1 million buyout, guaranteeing him at least $5 million on the deal. @JonHeyman and @Ken_Rosenthal were on it.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 19, 2019
Smoak, 33, is a left-handed-hitting South Carolina product who was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Texas Rangers. Shortly after his big-league debut with them in 2010, he was flipped to the Mariners, spending four-and-a-half seasons in Seattle before he landed on waivers and was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays, with whom he played 684 games in a handful of seasons.
Smoak’s best years came in 2017 (when he was an All-Star) and 2018 (when he was dubbed Blue Jays MVP), but he struggled in 2019. While appearing 121 games, the second-lowest total since his rookie season, he slashed .208/.342/.406 with 61 RBI on 86 hits, including 22 home runs. He also struck out 106 times and walked 79. While it’s not uncommon for Smoak to post a low slash line, 2019’s batting average and slugging percentage were significantly lower than in years past.
However, he’s still hitting for power and his 2017 and 2018 campaigns proved that he can still be an everyday clean-up hitter. Smoak has played first base in 91 percent of his career games; in fact, that’s the only position he’s played in the field with the rest of his time coming at designated hitter. That’s a good thing, though, considering the Brewers can’t have a DH due to National League rules and they needed a first baseman after parting ways with Eric Thames.