Blue Jays reach one-year deal with Smoak

Blue Jays reach one-year deal with Smoak

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays haven't parted ways with Justin Smoak after all, as they instead signed the first baseman to a one-year contract worth $1 million on Wednesday.

Toronto non-tendered Smoak prior to Tuesday night's deadline because he was projected to earn approximately $3 million through arbitration. That was too much for the Blue Jays' liking, but they still had interest at lower terms.

Smoak now appears to be the early favorite to receive the bulk of the playing time at first base in 2015. The expectation is that Edwin Encarnacion will receive most of his at-bats at designated hitter, where it'll be easier for him to remain healthy and rested.

"He'll come in, and he still has to compete," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of Smoak. "He's 6-foot-4, he has a massive wingspan, he's durable enough to play first base every day and has very good hands. It's going to help guys like [third baseman Josh] Donaldson, who are so athetic and are making plays on the run with bounced throws.

"We'd like to have a guy that can really pick balls in the dirt, get Encarnacion off his feet a little bit more, keep him on the field and DH more."

Smoak is coming off a rather disappointing 2014 season with the Mariners. He lost his starting job at first to Logan Morrison and finished the year with a .202 average, seven home runs and 30 RBIs. Despite the subpar numbers, Toronto is hoping for a bounce-back season from a player who hit at least 15 home runs from 2011-13.

A switch from pitcher-friendly Safeco Field to the home run happy Rogers Centre should cause at least a small uptick in Smoak's numbers. His swing is very conducive to his new ballpark, but his overall performance will have to be better if Smoak hopes to hang onto a starting job.

The expectations for Smoak in Toronto also won't be as high as they once were in Seattle. The former first-round Draft pick is expected to hit in the bottom half of Toronto's lineup and won't be forced to carry the load on offense.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.