Justin Smoak's. The Mariners first priority at first base. Within the last month we have heard that Jesus Montero will get a look at first base in hopes to keep his bat in the lineup. Smoak's playing time was all of a sudden diminished.
Last week the Mariners turned Jason Vargas over to the Angles for the switch hitting slugger Kendrys Morales. Morales, since a major leg surgery, is a primary first baseman or designated hitter.
Smoak all of a sudden could sense the smell of pine in his nostrils. Projected to be an All-Star caliber first baseman, Smoak has not produced with the bat at all. Unless you count a couple of player of the week outbursts in the last two seasons, he hasn't met the Mariners expectations.
I would believe that the Mariners aren't throwing in the towel on him just yet, especially since they have taken drastic measures to improve the mental portion of the offensive struggles by bringing in the fences. Smoak was the lone player that voiced his frustrations of the ball not going anywhere at Safeco, at least that we heard of.
Earlier in the week it was rumored that the Baltimore Orioles were interested in Justin Smoak. I don't know if the O's are pursuing Smoak or if the Mariners have shopped Smoak and the Orioles are listening, but either way, it could be a parting of ways for Smoak and his nightmare of Safeco Field. For me, I don't think it's the best idea to replace him just yet. I would love to see him for a season with these new dimensions. Even though the left field wall is still the same, I believe it will go a long way to improve the mental block that is Justin Smoak's struggles.
In the past, the Mariners have given players like Smoak away because they don't know how to solve them. Then, in a matter of time we see their names on All-Star rosters and as fans we get irritated and throw our hands up in the air. We don't want that to happen.
Yesterday, the Mariners signed Raul Ibanez to a one year contract. A weird signing, considering that he would be another OF/DH combo of a player. After reading Geoff Bakers article this morning in the Times it got even scarier for Smoak. Ibanez was looking for playing time. His belief of being a team leader was in leading by example and needed to know where he was going to get at bats. The answer? Left field, designated hitter and first base.
Justin Smoak, stay off the internet!
It could be that all of this is a just in case plan, a back up if Smoak falls off the face of the earth. However, I don't see the rumors and all these signings as a coincidence. We may all have to look at the writing on the wall. We are getting rid of a what was hoped to be a franchise first baseman for a handful of rental players. Morales and Ibanez are both here for one year, that's it. The two of them together would be a sacrifice in our defense compared to Justin Smoak too, but, there you have it.
Jack Zduriencik is not going to give Smoak away without getting some serious value in return and that could be Smoak's saving grace. Just how much value do they still see in him is the real question though, and by the looks of their massive backup plan, the value is perceived to be very low.
What's your take? Trade him now or keep him?