Justin Smoak turns 34 today.
Justin was the Rangers’ first-round pick in the 2008 draft, number 11 overall. He made it to the majors in 2010 and played 70 games for the Rangers before being traded to the Mariners in July, along with Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke for Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe.
His rookie season was a bust, hitting .218/.307/.371 with 13 home runs. He would play the next four seasons for the Mariners, never living up to his first-round potential, hitting .226/.308/.384 with 66 home runs in 496 games.
Justin came to the Jays selected off waivers in late October of 2014. We were less than thrilled. We soon forgot about it because we traded for Marco Estrada and then Josh Donaldson in the next month.
We would decline his option and non-tender Smoak and then sign him as a free agent for 1-year and $1 million.
He was not great in 2015, hitting .226/.299/.470 with 18 home runs, splitting time with Chris Colabello at first base.
In 2016, MLB suspended Colabello for using PEDs, which, thankfully, ended the continuous debate about who should play first. Not that Smoak earned the job by his play, hitting just .217/.314/.391 with 14 home runs.
Despite the number, Alex decided to sign him to a 2-year contract extension for $8.25 million with an added option year at $6 million. At the time, none of us had any thought that we might pick up that option.
Finally, in 2017, Justin showed us why he was a first-round draft pick and why he had many chances to prove himself. He hit .270/.355/.529 with 38 home runs, good for a 3.4 bWAR, and he was selected to the AL All-Star team.
2018 was a slight step back. Justin hit .22/.350/.457 with 25 home runs and a 2.3 bWAR. 2019 step back, hitting .208/.342/.406 with 22 home runs.
He played 684 games over 5 seasons with the Jays, hitting .237/.338/.459 with 117 home runs and a 5.6 bWAR. He is 49rd on our all-time list for bWAR, 14th on our list for home runs (16 more would put him 10th on our list), and 31st for games played.
He has the MLB record for plate appearances before hitting his first triple (2317) (now has 2 career).
One of my favorite moments was Justin’s two home run game on Canada Day in 2015, the only Canada Day game I’ve attended. He’s had at least one two-home run game in each season with the Jays.
His last season with the Blue Jays was a tough one for him, but I was glad to see more of his sense of humor and hear more about the kind of teammate he is.
His 2020 season wasn’t good (was 2020 good for anyone?). Justin hit just .176/.250/.361 and the Brewers released him when they signed Daniel Vogelbach. The Giants picked him up and then released him before the end of the season. He is a free agent at the moment.
Happy Birthday Justin. I hope it is a good one.
Here is one I forgot about: