Diamondbacks News

Arizona Diamondbacks: Top 5 First Base Contenders

By TC Zencka
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 23: Pavin Smith #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks takes batting practice for the MLB game against the Miami Marlins at Chase Field on September 23, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 23: Pavin Smith #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks takes batting practice for the MLB game against the Miami Marlins at Chase Field on September 23, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /
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Justin Smoak

It’s time to look outside the organization. There aren’t many guys out there with enough upside to bring in and take these at-bats from Lamb, Cron and Walker, especially since going outside the org requires surrendering resources, either in the form of cash or player capital.

Still, of those guys available, there is one trade candidate that could be worth exploring: Justin Smoak.

Since Paul Goldschmidt entered the league, there haven’t been a lot of young first baseman to fulfill their prospect potential. As the classic slugger has been devalued a little in the modern baseball landscape, first base sluggers have gone by the wayside a little bit.

From the embers of those prospects re-emerged Justin Smoak of the Toronto Blue Jays. It seems hard to imagine, but Smoak is actually older than Goldschmidt: he’ll be 33 by Opening Day. Injuries and a slow start to his major league career slowed Smoak a bit, but he found his groove the last two seasons.

Over that span, Smoak has averaged 52 games, churning at a .256/.353/.495 clip with an average of 32 home runs and 89 RBIs in that span. His career 11.2 BB% has been better as he’s gotten older, and the 23.7 K% rate isn’t totally off the charts for a slugger, though it’s not exactly worth writing home about.

Before these last two seasons, Smoak has been a consistently year-off, year-on kinda guy, but after 133 wRC+ in 2017 and 121 wRC+ the last two years, there is at least the potential that Smoak has aged himself into a new standard of productivity that he could hold for another season or three.

To be clear, Smoak is kind of the best-case of the worst-case scenarios. The Diamondbacks have said over and over again, both before the Goldschmidt trade and after, that they are not entering a full rebuild. In this writer’s opinion, there’s no sense in not spending at least one season in full-on rebuild mode once you’ve lost Goldschmidt, Corbin and Pollock, not to mention, potentially Greinke.

If, however, ownership is insistent on making some win-now moves, Smoak is a guy who probably won’t cost a ton in prospect capital, since the Jays have Rowdy Tellez ready to step in, and financially he’s cheap at $8MM this season. When the wheels fall off in May, Hazen can look to flip Smoak for something at the deadline. Worse case, he walks as a free agent next offseason and Kevin Cron or Pavin Smith takes over in 2020.

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