Blue Jays Mailbag: Lousy Defence, and Justin Smoak’s Future in Toronto

The All-Star break is upon us and the Blue Jays are… mercifully not playing again until Friday!

It’s not been a very fun first half for the Jays, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a whole lot to talk about it—mostly, at least in this edition of our weekly mailbag—centering around All-Star Justin Smoak! Words that are still so very, very strange to type in that order.

So let’s have a look at what’s on the minds of the masses!

If you have a Blue Jays question you’d like me to tackle for next week, be sure to send it to stoeten@gmail.com. As always, I have not read any of Griff’s answers.

What do you do with Smoak? I know we’ve got him for 2018, but is he a candidate for the type of extension Bautista got in 2011? And if we’re selling at the deadline, does he go? What sort of return could we reasonably expect?

Regardless of record do you trade Smoak if offered a quality under control outfielder? I know I know tons of variables but do you sell high?

I’ve lumped these two questions together, because they’re both essentially about the same thing: what to do with Smoak. Thing is, to understand what to do with him, we need to have a pretty good gauge of what his value really is, and… well… it’s a really tough question, and I’m not sure either one of these quite hits on it.

Like, I appreciate the newfound Smoak love in these parts, and obviously he’s having a great year, but… uh… there’s still a lot of failure in that track record of his. Maybe I’m still scarred by Michael Saunders’ All-Star campaign last year (and his subsequent turning into a pumpkin), but it’s hard for me to get past how abysmal Smoak has been at the plate leading up to this point. He’s been a different player this year, yes, telling Shi Davidi of Sportsnet of mechanical changes he’s made. When he coiled to swing at the ball, Smoak said, “you’d see the whole number on the back of my jersey… because I’m trying to hit the ball 500 feet,” but having eased up and accepted that 400 foot home runs count just the same, “it’s enabled me to keep my swing in plane longer, it’s enabled me to hit more pitches—the curveball, the slider—it’s enabled me to lay off pitches.” As much as I want to believe that the slight change to his hitting mechanics has unlocked contact skills that were previously dormant I think I’d have to see quite a bit more before I considered giving him a whole lot of money or, if I was another team, offering up the kind of player the Jays would insist on to part with him.

And would that player be an outfielder? With Dalton Pompey, Anthony Alford, Dwight Smith Jr., and maybe Harold Ramirez (if he turns his season in Double-A around) candidates to fill an outfield vacancy for the club next season, I’m not sure that’s where I’d be looking to add—even though the club’s outfield has obviously been a problem here in 2017.

When it comes to these kinds of hypotheticals, I always like to ask fans what sort of player from their own system would they be comfortable giving up to acquire Justin Smoak. Inevitably the answer isn’t someone nearly as talented as what they’re hoping to get back.