The trade market has been eerily quiet so far. With as many teams in shouting distance of a Wild Card spot, just about everyone is going to wait as long as possible before deciding whether they’re buying, selling, or standing pat. In this calm before the storm, some amount of doubt still lingers over some players who should be slam dunk trade chips.
A little over a month ago, MLB Trade Rumors named Justin Smoak the fourth best trade candidate on the market naming him “the top rental bat.” Smoak is a free agent at the end of the year and with the Blue Jays forever caught in the purgatory of fourth place, it should be a certainty that Smoak will be on the move before July 31. However, there has been very little scuttlebutt about which teams are interested in Smoak. There might not be a lot of demand for first basemen, but a switch hitter with 17 homers, a 16.1 percent walk rate, and a 111 wRC+ should fit in somewhere.
The most sensible landing spot for Smoak would be Cleveland. Any question of whether the team will wind up selling should be gone at this point. Since June 1, Cleveland is 30-13 and they’ve outscored their opponents 228-163. José Ramírez looks like he’s coming out of his extended slump (.366 wOBA over the last 30 games). The outfield is looking much better, but they still aren’t getting much production from their bench or their designated hitters. Adding Smoak would put a decent bat in the DH slot whether that’s him or Carlos Santana. Jake Bauers could get starts in the outfield against righties when Jordan Luplow needs a day off.
If not Cleveland, any team that would be interested in José Abreu could also use Smoak. Abreu might be the more attractive option, but Smoak is much more likely to be traded. If Abreu isn’t available, the Red Sox could pursue Smoak to fill in for Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce who have both struggled to stay on the field due to injuries.
The Rays are in the market for a right-handed bat, and while Smoak can hit from the right side, he’s better from the left. Smoak would be more of a last resort for Tampa.
In Washington, Ryan Zimmerman has been hurt and ineffective. Currently, the Nationals are using Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick at first base. With Smoak on the roster, Kendrick could slide back to second and spell Brian Dozier who hasn’t been quite the same hitter the past two seasons.
Though this is supposed to be a seller’s market, it’s possible that Toronto is unable to drum up enough interest in Smoak. Even if they don’t wind up moving him, the Blue Jays should still be coming away with a wealth of prospects. With their recent hot streak, the Giants look increasingly unlikely to trade Madison Bumgarner or players like Sam Dyson and Tony Watson who under control through 2020. That leaves the Blue Jays are the team with the most trade chips. Smoak might be the most expendable among them, but making a trade might not be easy.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.