A little over 12 years ago, the struggling San Francisco Giants had the opportunity to right the ship with the fifth overall draft pick.
If you visit the McCovey Chronicles archives from that day, you’ll find many a Giants fan with fingers and toes crossed for powerful switch-hitting slugger Justin Smoak.
The Giants did not take Smoak, though I think they’re feeling OK about that decision.
But now those fans are getting a chance to scratch an itch, as the Giants announced on Wednesday that they had signed Smoak to a Minor League deal. He’ll join the Alternate Training Site in Sacramento.
The Giants announced that they have signed Justin Smoak to a minor league deal and added him to player pool. He's a switch, hitter, was having a rough year with Brewers. At first glance, appears to be competition for Sandoval, but maybe there's something else going on.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 9, 2020
While he’s no Buster Posey, Smoak has had an 11-year career, and has appeared in 1,283 games for four teams. He’s only been worth 5.7 Wins Above Replacement in his career, per Fangraphs, but had a 3.6 WAR season in 2017, when he made the All-Star Game as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
He signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers over the offseason, but struggled mightily, hitting .186/.262/.381, with 40 strikeouts in 126 plate appearances. The Brewers designated him for assignment, and that’s when the Giants swooped in and placed Smoak in the player pool, where he’ll take the vacant spot left by Abiatal Avelino, who was released a few days ago.
Smoak isn’t yet a part of the active roster, but his arrival doesn’t look great for Pablo Sandoval, even if both players are struggling similarly. It very well may be that Smoak doesn’t ever make the roster, but teams don’t usually sign 33-year olds just to leave them in the Minor Leagues (or in this case, the Alternate Training Site). If Smoak shows some improvements, he’ll likely find himself getting a few MLB at bats.