MILWAUKEE — The Brewers were poised to continue their free-agent spree Thursday, when they reportedly agreed to a deal with switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak.
A pair of MLB Network insiders reported the deal, with Jon Heyman first saying the sides were close, and Ken Rosenthal following with the terms: one year, $5 million, plus a club option for 2021. Since the agreement is pending a physical, the Brewers had yet to confirm the deal.
Smoak would be the Brewers’ seventh free-agent pickup since the start of last week, joining reliever Alex Claudio (a re-sign), starters Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom, outfielder Avisaíl García and infielders Ryon Healy and Eric Sogard. Smoak presumably would share first base with Ryan Braun, who will get some at-bats in the infield as part of an effort to spread playing time among an outfield of Braun, García, Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich.
Smoak has been among the obvious targets of the Brewers all winter, or at least since the team opted not to exercise Eric Thames’ $7.5 million club option for 2020. Smoak, 33, is a switch-hitter who has more power from the left side, and the Brewers love acquiring left-handed power. He has hit 191 home runs in parts of 10 Major League seasons with the Rangers, Mariners and Blue Jays, including 85 home runs over the past three seasons in Toronto while reaching base at a .350 clip.
Smoak’s finest season was in 2017, when he batted .270 with an .883 OPS, 38 home runs and 133 weighted runs created plus, and was an American League All-Star. His production fell off in 2018 (.808 OPS, 25 home runs, 121 wRC+) and again in ’19 (.748 OPS, 22 home runs, 101 wRC+), when Smoak was dealing with a quadriceps issue that limited him to 121 games.
Defensively, Smoak draws mixed reviews. Many regard him as a solid defender, and “the eye test,” wrote The Athletic’s Kaitlyn McGrath in October, “suggests he’s saved quite a few of his teammates from throwing errors while manning first.” But defensive metrics typically rate Smoak below average; he was rated at minus-3 defensive runs saved each of the past two years.
With Smoak in the fold, the Brewers’ biggest remaining hole would be at third base. Healy has experience at both infield corners, but he is coming back from hip surgery and has Minor League options, so he may begin next year at Triple-A San Antonio.