Justin Smoak: First Base Job Is His To Lose


Feb 23, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) fields grounders during camp at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2014 season, many thought that the offseason acquisitions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison (205 combined games at 1B) signaled the end of Justin Smoak‘s career as a Seattle Mariner.

After all, the team wouldn’t plan on using Hart and Morrison (both with injury history) back in the outfield right? Not with Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Abraham Almonte, Franklin Gutierrez and Willie Bloomquist.

Well, Guti is out and the team does in fact want to place Hart in right field, assuming his knees hold. This leaves first base open for Smoak and possibly LoMo in a platoon.

Then new skipper Lloyd McClendon had this to say during workouts: Via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma New Tribune

"I told him he’s my first baseman,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I told him that this winter. Having said that, he still has to go out and perform. I like what I see (this spring) from him. He’s doing a pretty darn good job.”"

Makes sense. After all, the Mariners recently avoided arbitration with Smoak, agreeing to a one-year, $2.7875 million deal with a $3.65 million club option for 2015. He is now eligible for arbitration going into 2016 and can become a free agent after the 2016 season concludes.

But just because they came to terms with Smoak to avoid arbitration, doesn’t mean that they can’t move him – see what Kansas City did with Emilio Bonifacio.

If Hart can stay healthy and hold his own in right, that leaves the door open for the M’s to bring back Kendrys Morales to DH. That leaves LoMo to play first and Smoak available to be part of a package deal – presumably with Nick Franklin – to acquire an arm or two.

If we are to take McClendon at face value, that won’t happen. But there is a long history of a manager liking a player and saying he’s “the guy” only to see the general manager trade that player to better the club.

I like Justin Smoak. I don’t want people to think that I would get rid of him in a heartbeat. But it’s hard to have all of these 1B/DH-type players on the roster and not think about what else could be acquired.

But for now, let’s try to get behind what the new skipper is seeing and trust that he will run out the best possible lineup each and every night that he possibly can.