Blue Jays claim Justin Smoak off waivers from Mariners

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Justin Smoak has been Seattle’s primary first baseman for the past four seasons, but the Mariners have given up on the 27-year-old former first-round draft pick and the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers.

There’s been some talk of the Blue Jays potentially trading first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind, so Smoak gives them a possible fallback option.

However, despite being a former top prospect with 20-homer power and solid plate discipline Smoak has never managed to be an above-average hitter for a first baseman. Overall he’s hit just .224 with a .689 OPS in 566 career games, including .202 with a .614 OPS in 80 games this season.

Smoak’s contract includes a $3.65 million option or $150,000 buyout for 2015. It’s hard to see why the Blue Jays would want him around at that price and by claiming him off waivers they’d now be on the hook for the buyout.

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.

The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.

While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.

Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?