Of all the experienced position players Toronto had heading into last off-season, only Justin Smoak, Luke Maile, and Devon Travis (now injured) still remain. Over a period of less than four months, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, and Kevin Pillar were traded. While Troy Tulowitzki and the $38-million remaining on his contract was released.
Despite all these changes, the Blue Jays did decide to hold onto 10-year veteran Justin Smoak. A decision that’s a testament to how important Smoak is to this ball club.
Smoak is a steadying influence that’s crucial on a team filled with so many inexperienced players. He’s also, more than any other player on the Blue Jays, the guy opposing pitchers fear most. This season the opposition is pitching around Smoak like never before and he’s more than happy to take all the walks they’re giving him.
There’s no hiding the fact the Blue Jays are making almost every effort to get younger. But thankfully the front office understands the importance of having at least a few solid veterans around. Toronto probably has one of the most extensive coaching staff’s in all of baseball. And for good reason too, what with all the young players they have. Even with a larger than normal coaching staff, Toronto still needs some quality veterans with the ability to both lead and put-up solid numbers.
Sadly, there’s likely to be a time soon when even the well-liked Smoak will be traded away. Maybe it’ll be a week from now…perhaps a month…or maybe closer to the trade deadline on July 31. What can’t be ignored however is that after all the changes the Blue Jays made this past year, Smoak continues to epitomize what it means to be a professional. And there’s no doubting this approach is rubbing off on his younger teammates and that the Blue Jays will be so much better for it in the long run.