The Giants jumped on recently-released former big leaguer Justin Smoak, signing the struggling 33-year old to a minor league deal, and sending him to be part of their bubble at the alternate training site in Sacramento.
The first baseman was DFA’d by the Brewers on September 3rd after struggling for his second season, batting .186/.262/.381 in 33 games this season with the Brewers. He passed through waivers, and was released on September 8th. The Giants signed him on the 9th.
Smoak signed a 1-year deal with the Brewers after struggling in his final season at Toronto, when he hit .208/.342/.406 in 121 games. Smoak has always been a low-average, but high slugging and walking hitter. In 2018, he hit .242, had a .350 OBP with 83 walks against 156 strikeouts, and hit 25 homers. In 2017, his best season, he had 34 home runs and a batting line of .270/.355/.529.
Overall for his career, Smoak has a .229/.322/.419 batting line, with 196 home runs over 11 seasons for the Rangers, the Mariners, the Blue Jays and the Brewers.
Smoak has only played first base or DH in his career, and is generally considered and smooth fielding first baseman. The former All-Star was the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Texas Rangers, the same draft in which the Giants picked Buster Posey.
There’s some question as to what role the Giants see him in. The switch-hitter could be a backup or emergency option at first base, where the Giants only have Wilmer Flores behind starter Brandon Belt. But he does not fit as a platoon partner, as the switch-hitting Smoak is far better against right-handed pitchers, as is Belt.
He could potentially compete with Pablo Sandoval as a power-hitting bench threat, but Sandoval’s ability to play two positions is a significant advantage.
The Giants will need to decide what they are doing with Smoak this season quickly. If he is to qualify for the playoff roster, Smoak needs to be in the major leagues by September 15th.