Tim Smith looking for work

*Tim Smith (Toronto, Ont.) took door No. 2 when the Kansas City Royals gave him a choice: be backup at triple-A Omaha, or accept a release .... 2012 Canadians in College 2012 Canadians draft list Letters of Intent 2011 Canadians in the Minors

By Chris Toman

Minor league outfielder Tim Smith agreed to a release with the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, making the 25-year-old a free agent for the first time in his career.

The Royals organization gave Smith, who has already proven himself at the double-A level, an option: backup in triple-A Omaha, or accept a release.

“Basically, they just told me I would have more of an opportunity with another organization,” Smith said on Thursday. “I feel like the release best suits my future. The Royals have a phenomenal amount of talent in the minor leagues, and with talent comes the numbers game. They are overflowing with outfielders, in particular.

“A new opportunity with another club seems to be a more fitting path to the big leagues for a player in my shoes.”

Smith, 25, spent the past two seasons in double-A after being acquired from the Texas Rangers in 2009. Smith was a Texas League All-Star in his first full season in the Royals organization and hit .311/.365/.508/.873 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs in 2011. A back injury limited Smith to just 69 games -- he played four games on a rehab assignment in the Arizona League -- but he posted career highs in slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage, hit double-digit homers for the second time in his career and hit .300-plus for the fourth consecutive season.

“I knew coming in that it was going to be a tough situation with all the bodies,” Smith said. “My only concern ever was consistent playing time … I just want consistent at-bats. I feel as if I’ve deserved it by now. I have spent some time in double-A and feel like I’m ready to move up the ladder.”

After Smith’s Naturals were ousted from the Texas League playoffs, he suited up for his home country, Canada, at the Baseball World Cup and Pan American Games in October. He made the most of the opportunity, leading the pace offensively for the bronze-medal winning Canadians at the World Cup, and followed it up by hitting .350 with a .985 OPS at the Pan Ams to help Canada capture its first gold medal at the senior level.

Smith believes his offensive game would aid a number of organizations, but feels he can also bring something else to the table.

“I think I have taken some strides in the area of power,” Smith said. “I think it just comes with maturing as a hitter. I still feel as if you have to keep the mindset of keeping it simple. See the ball well, make solid contact with where it’s pitched and the power comes hand in hand … But I also think I can bring a sense of on-field leadership, as well. How to go about your business as a professional, playing the game hard, setting an example sort of thing.”

He’s eager to rediscover a former staple of his offensive game.

“I’m always excited to swipe bases,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, with the injuries I went through, I was kind of tentative the past two seasons -- just trying to stay healthy. I am feeling great and ready to input the running game into my arsenal again.”

Combined with his four-game rehab assignment, Smith stole 10 bases in 2011 after swiping 15, 17 and 21 bases the previous three seasons, respectively. His 21 stolen bases came in 2008, the same year he made his first minor league All-Star Game -- where he was named the MVP -- and set career highs in home runs (13) and RBIs (70), among other categories, while playing in the Midwest League.

Since 2007, Smith has always had a place to call home, so his current situation -- being a free agent -- is foreign to him.

“I think I’m just going to approach it kind of like the offseason,” Smith said. “Make sure I get my flexibility and weight training routine daily. Lots of reps in the cage for the swing. Basically, just stay ready because you never know when that call might come.”

The Toronto, Ont., native signed with the Rangers out of Arizona State University after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 draft. Before committing to ASU, Smith attended Midland College where he set a number of offensive records. He was also drafted by the New York Mets in 2004 when he was with Team Ontario and the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 when he attended Midland.

In 2004, he was named the High School Player of the Year by the Toronto Star.

Smith is a career .305/.371/.457 hitter, with 41 homers and 231 RBIs in 386 games.