The Milwaukee Brewers have made their third free agent signing in the past three days, this time closing one of their holes on the roster.
Brewers fans, you can just about close the book on a possible Eric Thames return to the Milwaukee. The Crew has just signed first baseman Justin Smoak to a one year contract. Smoak hit .208 with 22 home runs last season.
With Ryon Healy signed a few days ago and Ryan Braun figuring to get some time at first base as well, and now Justin Smoak in the picture, the Brewers have three players capable of sharing the time at first base.
It’s only a short term deal for Smoak, but it fixes the hole for 2020.
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 will receive $5MM guaranteed in this deal, with a $4MM salary and a $1MM buyout on a club option for next season.
Solving First Base
This position is pretty much settled now. After the July trade of Jesus Aguilar and the free agency of Eric Thames, the Brewers had no one for first base. Now, they have three players who can handle the load at first.
Smoak has a lot of power, but doesn’t typically hit for a high average. He hit .208 last season and .242 the year before that. His best year came in 2017, when he made the All Star team, hit .270 with 38 bombs and an .883 OPS.
Smoak also suffered from poor luck in 2019, having an extremely low .223 BABIP on the season. If he gets that back to anywhere close to his career average, his overall numbers should make a huge bounceback.
A switch hitter, the 33 year old Smoak has brought down his strikeout percentage to around 21% and his walk rate is steadily above 10%.
Last three years:
Thames .241/.343/.504 ,72 HRs, 118 OPS+
Smoak .243/.350/.470, 85 HRs, 119 OPS+
Smoak saved $1.5 million and is controllable for another year if club chooses.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) December 19, 2019
Adam McCalvy compared the stats for the last three years for both Smoak and Eric Thames, and they’re very similar players, only Smoak had a nice lead in home runs, but they’re able to get Smoak for $1.5 million less than Thames’ option was.
With the lack of impact options at first base on the market, the Brewers weren’t going to be able to make a splash at that position. But, with other options available for third base and starting pitcher, they still can.
Perhaps the Brewers can reunite Justin Smoak with his old Toronto teammate Josh Donaldson, to have him play third base. It’s unlikely given his market, but the Brewers still need someone for third base.
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This looks like a good signing for the Brewers. Smoak has most of his power from the left side, and Miller Park is a great place for left handed power. With his switch hitting ability, he can get the lion’s share of the starts at first base.