Sep 6, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) hits a 2-RBI double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the 8th inning at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Tampa Bay 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Smoak: Projections, And Where He Fits

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the recent acquisitions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, the Mariners have added a couple different bats that have some upside in them. However, they are both bat only players for the most part, as they do not play premium positions, nor are they particularly skilled at the positions they do play.

Depth is never a bad thing, and is something this organization has lacked for far too long.

But depth isn’t exactly the right word to describe what the M’s have. Logjam seems much more appropriate, as this current situation will likely remind many of the situation the team faced last year.

Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez both belonged at either 1st base or designated hitter, yet they each got regular time in the outfield, where they proceeded to be abhorrent.

This year, it looks as though at least one of Hart and Morrison will see consistent innings in the outfield, but neither really belongs out there. Morrison has been a sub-par defender in the outfield for his whole career and after batting injuries lately, there is reason to believe he could be even worse.

He is a career -36 DRS player in the outfield in his three year stint in the bigs to this point. For reference, Ibanez was worth -47 runs out there over the last three seasons. We know how bad he is out is there, so seeing Morrison just 11 runs better is certainly not reassuring.

Hart has been a little better in his outfield appearances (+3 DRS over his last three seasons) but he missed all of last year with major knee problems, so risking further injury — and likely poor play also — by throwing him in right field with regularity seems like a fool’s errand to me.

Of course, this is all dependent on Justin Smoak‘s future, which is what I want to focus on today. If the Mariners want to roll with him at first base again, then it is all but guaranteed that Hart or Morrison will be flung into the outfield.

But there is still a chance — though the chance seems to fade as the offseason continues — that the team moves Smoak, likely to a team looking for the left side of a 1B or DH platoon (hello Pittsburgh?). That would allow Hart and Morrison to play 1st and DH in some capacity, but would leave another hole in the outfield that has to be filled somehow.

Seeing as this organization has seemingly thrown defense out the window recently, a lineup featuring Smoak, Hart and Morrison is probably what we will end up seeing. While there is plenty of room for offense between those three, there is almost no other value to be had.

Smoak finished last year with a 1.1 WAR according to baseball reference, and a 0.4 WAR according to Fangraphs. People seem to say Smoak is an above average defensive 1st baseman, but he was a -13.9 defender there last year, and has been negative every other year as well. Steamer projects more of the same next year, with a 103 wRC+ and 0.8 WAR for Smoak in 580 plate appearances.

I personally don’t have that much faith in Smoak, but I do like the flashes he has shown. I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see him figure something out and improve upon last year, maybe with a 110 wRC+ and 1.5 WAR, but even that isn’t much.

To me, it seems apparent that the best route for this team to take would be to trade Smoak for whatever they can get, so that they can best utilize Hart and Morrison, while giving themselves room to upgrade the outfield, likely through trade as to avoid Nelson Cruz at all costs.

Tags: Justin Smoak Seattle Mariners

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