TORONTO – Justin Smoak was the unanimous choice as Blue Jays Player of the Year in voting Wednesday by the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The switch-hitting first baseman, who batted .252/.350/.457 with 25 homers and 77 RBIs, collected all 16 first-place votes to easily outdistance runner-up Randal Grichuk, who hit .245/.301/502 with 25 homers and 61 RBIs. Josh Donaldson won the honour the previous three years.
J.A. Happ, traded to the New York Yankees at the deadline for infielder Brandon Drury and outfielder Billy McKinney, was the runaway winner as Pitcher of the Year, left-hander Ryan Borucki edged out Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a relatively close race for Rookie of the Year, while catcher Luke Maile took home Most Improved Player honours.
Departed manager John Gibbons was selected winner of the John Cerutti Award, given to “a person associated with the day-to-day workings of Blue Jays’ baseball who displays goodwill, co-operation and character as exemplified by the late” left-hander and broadcaster.
Gibbons was fired at season’s end after a six-year run in his second stint as manager, leading the Blue Jays to consecutive post-season appearances in 2015 and ’16, the club’s first playoff action since consecutive World Series championships in 1992-93.
Happ posted a 4.18 ERA in 114 games over 20 starts for the Blue Jays before being sent to the Yankees, where he closed out the campaign by going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 63.2 innings over 11 outings. He’s the sixth different pitcher to bag the honour since Casey Janssen earned the honour in 2012-13. Marcus Stroman won last year.
Borucki was the runner-up to Happ but had 43 points in the 3-2-1 voting system to beat out Gurriel, who had 35, for the rookie prize. The left-hander pitched to a 3.87 ERA in 97.2 innings over 17 starts while Gurriel batted .281/.309/.446 with 11 homers in 65 games.
Maile batted .248/.333/.366 in 68 games and was among the few Blue Jays players to exceed expectations during the 2018 season. He finished with 31 points in the voting, well ahead of Grichuk’s 17.