Blue Jays sign first baseman Justin Smoak to one-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak, right. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

TORONTO — Justin Smoak signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays worth US$3.9 million on Wednesday, avoiding arbitration.

Smoak, who turns 30 on Saturday, appeared in 132 games for Toronto last season batting .236 with 18 home runs, reaching a career high in RBIs (59).

He was credited with four defensive runs saved, ranking second to only Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees at first base.

Smoak, the 11th overall pick of the 2008 draft by Texas is a veteran of six seasons, has a .224 career average with 92 home runs and 223 RBIs for Texas, Seattle and Toronto.

He made $1 million this year. He was claimed by Toronto off waivers from Seattle in October 2014 after hitting .202 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 80 games with the Mariners that year. The Blue Jays failed to offer him a contract, then re-signed him, getting around the rule that prevents teams from cutting a player’s salary by more than 20 per cent from the previous year. Smoak earned $2,637,500 in 2013.

Toronto later non-tendered catcher Josh Thole, making him a free agent.

The 29-year-old from Breese, Ill., played in 18 games for the Blue Jays last season hitting .204 with two runs-batted in.

Thole was acquired by Toronto from the New York Mets in a Dec. 17, 2012 trade along with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Throughout his three seasons with the Blue Jays, which were split between the MLB and triple-A, Thole primarily caught Dickey.

Thole did not appear in the post-season for Toronto, which lost to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship series.

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