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As the trade deadline approaches Justin Smoak is simultaneously one of the players it makes the most sense for the Blue Jays to deal and the guy who might be the hardest to move.
On one hand, Smoak’s an above-average switch hitter with a strong approach, a steady demeanour, a rock-solid glove and a reasonable $8 million salary. On the other, the 32-year-old is a first baseman with literally no defensive versatility and most contenders are set at the first baseman / designated hitter slot.
The Indians are one of the few that have some issues there, and they reportedly could be in the market for Smoak’s services.
Indians are among teams looking at Justin Smoak
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 30, 2019
Right now, Cleveland is rolling out all-star Carlos Santana at first base with Jake Bauers claiming most of the designated hitter work. Santana has been outstanding but Bauers is hitting just .237/.311/.386.
Smoak with his .215/.357/.427 line and 18 home runs would be a huge upgrade on Bauers with the bat, and likely a defensive upgrade on Santana, allowing him to slide to DH.
The Indians sit two games out of the AL Central lead, and adding a player like Smoak to their lineup could make a significant difference. If the Blue Jays were able to make a deal with Cleveland, the return probably wouldn’t be significant - and there’s a good chance they’d be paying at least some of Smoak’s salary - but the club doesn’t gain much from having a 32-year-old on an expiring contract in its lineup.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins’ roots in Cleveland, the Blue Jays have made trades with the Indians at the last two trade deadlines. In 2017, they shipped Joe Smith to the AL Central contenders for southpaw Thomas Pannone and infield prospect Samad Taylor, before sending them Josh Donaldson at last year’s August deadline for pitching prospect Julian Merryweather.
Two other teams reportedly interested in the switch-hitter are the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. The Blue Jays and Rays have already agreed to one deal leading up to the MLB trade deadline. Toronto dealt Eric Sogard to the divisional rival for two players to be named later.
If Smoak were to be traded, the biggest beneficiary could end up being Rowdy Tellez, who’d look to get another shot at proving himself in the majors after getting demoted earlier this month.
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