Smoak plucked off waivers by Blue Jays

Toronto has decision to make on first baseman's 2015 option

Smoak plucked off waivers by Blue Jays

TORONTO -- Justin Smoak will have an opportunity for the fresh start he was looking for after five rather disappointing seasons in a Mariners uniform.

The Blue Jays claimed the switch-hitting first baseman off waivers from Seattle on Tuesday afternoon. Toronto's plans for Smoak remain unclear, but with the status of designated hitter Adam Lind up in the air, it's possible a starting job will be up for grabs.

That would be welcome news for Smoak, who was the centerpiece of the 2010 deal that sent left-hander Cliff Lee to Texas but lost his regular job at first base midway through the '14 season to Logan Morrison.

"There were some good times in Seattle and some bad times, but you learn from it," said Smoak, who is a career .224 hitter with 74 home runs and 234 RBIs. "It'll be good to be in a hitter's ballpark. I'll be positive about that and just excited to get this thing started."

Smoak has a $3.65 million team option on his contract for next season, but the 27-year-old admitted during a Wednesday conference call with reporters that early indications are it won't be picked up. If the option gets declined, Smoak would be eligible for arbitration after making $2.63 million in 2013.

Outside of the option likely getting declined, Smoak doesn't know what to expect with his new team. He talked with assistant general manager Andrew Tinnish on Tuesday, and with the offseason on the horizon, the organization didn't want to make a firm commitment.

"Straight forward with what he had to say," Smoak said of his conversation with Tinnish. "Still early in the offseason, and they're still trying to figure out what they want to do, but at the same time, it's a good opportunity for me. It's pretty exciting for me and my family, and it'll be nice to get back on the East Coast, being an East Coast guy."

Smoak possesses power, and the hope is that a move to hitter-friendly Rogers Centre will help him take advantage of that. He hit at least 15 home runs from 2011-13 before his numbers dipped in 2014. The native of South Carolina hit seven homers in 248 at-bats and received sporadic playing time in the second half.

The rest of Smoak's offensive game remains a work in progress. He's never hit above .239 at the big league level and has a career .689 OPS in 566 games. Whether the potential upside will be enough to justify a full-time position is something that won't be answered until later this offseason.

"I've always been the guy that's able to hit the ball in the air," Smoak said. "Hit the ball in the air in Seattle and not too often does it go out of the ballpark. ... It's something that's going to be a change, but I think it's more of a confidence thing, too. You play in the AL East, all of those are pretty much hitter's ballparks, and I think it's just the confidence standpoint that you go to the plate and expect good things to happen."

The addition of Smoak does raise some questions about Lind, who has a $7.5 million club option on his contract for 2015. It has been assumed the Blue Jays will exercise that option, but it's possible the club could then look to deal Lind to cut salary and fill another position of need.

Lind has been used almost exclusively against right-handed pitching in recent years and is coming off a season in which he hit .321 with an .860 OPS. He has to be used in some sort of a platoon, but he remains an elite-level hitter against righties, and his departure would create another hole in the Blue Jays' lineup.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for 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.