SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants brought in a potential reinforcement for their stretch run on Wednesday, signing first baseman Justin Smoak to a Minor League deal and adding him to their 60-man player pool.
Manager Gabe Kapler said Smoak will report to the club’s alternate training site in Sacramento and log some reps there before being considered for the Major League roster.
Smoak, 33, was released by the Brewers on Sunday after batting only .186 with a .642 OPS and five home runs over 33 games this season. The switch-hitting slugger earned an All-Star nod with the Blue Jays in 2017 and has slashed .229/.322/.419 over his 11-year career in the Majors. He’ll need to be added to the Giants’ 28-man roster by Tuesday in order to be eligible to play in the postseason this year.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi explored deals for another left-handed bat at the Trade Deadline, though nothing ended up materialized last week. Smoak, who has historically hit for more power from the left side, could help fill that need, though the Giants already have plenty of depth at first base in Brandon Belt, Wilmer Flores and Pablo Sandoval.
Smoak’s signing might put some pressure on Sandoval, another switch-hitting slugger who entered Wednesday batting .220 with a .546 OPS and only one home run over 32 games this year.
“I’ve been following him for some time,” Kapler said of Smoak. “For the last couple of years, he’s done a really nice job of seeing pitches and working walks and hitting for power, particularly from the left side. I think you go back a couple years, he had some monster years in Toronto.
“He's just been very, very consistent at seeing pitches, making good decisions and hitting home runs. He can drive the baseball. That's his profile. The other thing I’d note about Justin is he's got a great reputation of being a contributor in the clubhouse. People really like to have him around.”
The Giants have emerged as one of the hottest teams in baseball in recent weeks, going 14-5 since Aug. 18 to vault themselves into the National League Wild Card race. They entered Wednesday with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Rockies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NL.
Bay Area residents awoke to apocalyptic, orange-hued skies and falling ash on Wednesday due to the smoke from wildfires across Northern California, but Kapler said he doesn’t expect the eerie conditions to impact the Giants' series finale against the Mariners.
"I think we're always monitoring air quality,” Kapler said. “Certainly, it was a strange look when we all woke up this morning and found the orange-ish, red hue to the sky. Walking onto the field today was certainly different, in the middle of the afternoon and having the sky look a little bit dark. But my understanding is that the air quality is OK. Of course, we'll keep tabs on it, and if anything changes, we'll make the best decisions for the health and well-being of our players."
Kapler said left-hander Drew Smyly is on track to be activated off the injured list on Thursday, when the Giants head to San Diego to kick off a four-game series against the Padres. Smyly, who has been on the IL since Aug. 2 with a left index finger sprain, threw three innings in his last simulated game, though the Giants haven’t said whether he’ll be used as a starter or as a reliever down the stretch.
Austin Slater has started only two games since returning from the IL on Saturday and was out of Wednesday’s lineup against Mariners left-hander Nick Margevicius, but Kapler said the 27-year-old outfielder “continues to trend in the right direction.”
Slater has been limited to designated hitter duties because of a right elbow issue, but the Giants decided to start Wilmer Flores at the DH spot against Margevicius.
“This decision about whether to have him in the lineup today was mainly based on making sure that Flores continues to be in the lineup at the DH spot,” Kapler said. “It preserves our ability to have Slater be a pinch-runner for us and also a bat off the bench.”