After winning 14 of their last 19 games, the Giants have climbed above .500 and are increasingly considered a legitimate threat to sneak into the postseason. With the club in the midst of a playoff push, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi made a surprising addition to the team’s player pool on Wednesday by signing…Justin SmoakGiants make a surprising free agent signing, add veteran slugger on minor league deal — Times-Standard
Smoak will report to the team’s alternate site in Sacramento and isn’t yet a member of the 40-man roster, but he’ll need to be added to the club by Sept. 15 to become eligible to participate in the postseason.
Smoak began the season with the Milwaukee Brewers and hit .186 with five home runs in 113 at-bats before being released on Sunday. The switch-hitter posted above-average numbers in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with the Toronto Blue Jays, but struggled to provide the Brewers with any production this year and was ultimately let go after striking out in more than 30% of his plate appearances.
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The timing of Smoak’s signing with the Giants is curious because it’s not immediately clear how he fits the team’s roster.
First baseman Brandon Belt has emerged as a down-ballot MVP candidate and is still in contention to win the batting title. When Belt isn’t in the lineup, infielders Wilmer Flores and Pablo Sandoval have also proven capable of playing at first base.
Smoak doesn’t have much positional versatility as he’s likely limited to first base and designated hitter at this point in his career, so it’s uncertain whether the Giants will end up adding him to the roster. It’s possible Zaidi pursued Smoak with the idea that he could provide some insurance in the event Belt, Flores or Sandoval is injured down the stretch.
The Giants have also had several other players including Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford miss games over the last week due to nagging injuries, so the front office may have viewed the opportunity to add a veteran on a low-risk deal as a move it couldn’t pass up.
Smoak was an All-Star in 2017 with the Blue Jays and is a close friend of former Giants outfielder Kevin Pillar, who won the 2019 Willie Mac Award and is currently trying to help the Rockies push past San Francisco in the postseason race.