The Milwaukee Brewers have signed first baseman Justin Smoak. The deal is for one year and $5 million.
Smoak, 33, has hit 85 home runs with a .350 OBP over his past three seasons in Toronto, including a career-high 38 homers in 2017. That said, hit just .208/.342/.406 (OPS+ 101) last season despite a league-average strikeout rate that was quite a bit better than his career mark. It was a subpar year for him in production, but there’s good reason to believe that his low BABIP — only .223 compared to a career BABIP of .266 — was flukey and that he stands a good chance to bounce back to the level of performance he showed in 2017-18, when hit a combined .256/.353/.495 (OPS+ 127).
For Milwaukee, this fills the hole at first base created by the club’s decision to not pick up Eric Thames‘ option. If they had picked up Thames’ option, it would’ve cost the Brewers $7.5 million.
Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.
Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.
Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.
As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.