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Happy Birthday Justin Smoak

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Justin Smoak turns 35 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. However, we soon forgot about it because we traded for Marco Estrada and Josh Donaldson 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 his numbers, Alex decided to sign him to a 2-year contract extension for $8.25 million with an added option year at $6 million. Of course, 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 five seasons with the Jays, hitting .237/.338/.459 with 117 home runs and a 5.6 bWAR. He is 49th on our all-time list for bWAR, 14th 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) (he had 2 in his career).

One of my favourite 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 each season with the Jays.

His last season with the Blue Jays was tough for him, but I was glad to see more of his sense of humour and hear more about the kind of teammate he was.

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. This year, Justin played 41 games in Japan before deciding he would rather be with his family. Unfortunately, covid rules kept him from bringing his family to Japan. I don’t know if he plans to return to Japan next season.

Happy Birthday, Justin. I hope it is a good one.

Here is one I forgot about: