Seattle Mariners Should Send Down Mallex Smith For the Player and Team

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 21: Kevan Smith #44 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looks on as Mallex Smith #0 give a high five to Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners after hitting a two run home run in the ninth inning of the game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 21, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 21: Kevan Smith #44 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looks on as Mallex Smith #0 give a high five to Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners after hitting a two run home run in the ninth inning of the game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 21, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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To say it has been a rough start to the 2019 season for new Seattle Mariners center fielder Mallex Smith would be an understatement. But now, nearly 30 games in, it is time to make a difficult decision.

To say Mallex Smith is the worst Mariners player right now is fair. To say he is the worst offensive player in the game right now is not a stretch. Fangraphs has him at -0.6 fWAR, which is the 6th worst in all of baseball.

He looks incapable at the plate slashing .178/.272/.267 thus far. But it is not just that he is struggling at the plate. He is also amongst the worst defensive outfielders in all of baseball. It’s not just the balls that are popping out of his glove, which is annoying. But overall, he tied for 3rd worst in defensive runs saved (DRS) with -5 (zero is average).

About the only thing Mallex is doing well is running the bases. But how valuable is that when you have only reached base at a .200 OBP clip over the past two weeks. Of course, every player slumps. But watching Smith at the plate, this is something more. He is completely lost at the plate.

He is striking out 30% of his PAs. That should tell you everything you need to know. Right now, Smith is in a deep hole and with every PA the Mariners give him at the big league level, he is digging that hole deeper and deeper. With all the evidence before us, it is time to make a difficult decision: it is time to send Smith to Tacoma.

Now, there are a few factors that come into play if this decision were made. First, how does Mallex respond to the promotion? Does it take some pressure off and allow him to work through his problems without the pressures of MLB? Or does it drain his confidence even further?

Second, who would be his replacement. This may be the biggest roadblock to this idea because the Mariners are exactly loaded with talent in the outfield. At least, not one who is definitely ready for the big leagues.

Braden Bishop is the most logical choice. He is on the 40-man roster, so a simple swap of Bishop for Smith is simple. But we need to remember that Bishop has played just 19 games at the AAA level. He is hitting well in Tacoma, slashing .269/.367/.423, but these aren’t numbers that will blow you away.

The glove and baserunning come with Bishop and both are plus tools. The issue is whether or not Bishop is ready to get regular playing time at the MLB level. You do not want to rush Bishop before he is ready as he may be a part of the future. So as easy at it seems, it may not be as simple as we want.

Ian Miller is the other option. Miller has spent plenty of time in Tacoma and does have the speed that Mallex brings to the table. But Miller is off to a slow start in AAA and his defense may not be an upgrade in CF. Jake Fraley flashed in spring training, but like Bishop, is just 20 games into his career at AA.

The most likely scenario is either a small trade for an AAAA outfielder or moving Haniger to CF and calling up Miller to be the fourth outfielder.

But let’s not mix anything up here. The Mariners should NOT be giving up on Mallex long term, and they won’t. Smith has a long enough track record in the big leagues that we know he isn’t that bad. Perhaps his elbow injury is flaring up again. Or perhaps missing 6 weeks of baseball activity right before the season is a major factor.

Either way, Smith is not gaining anything at the big league level right now. Neither are the Mariners. Sometimes, a demotion can make all the difference in the world. The Mariners need to do something to help Smith rebound and their current plan is not working.

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A trip to Tacoma could do wonders for Mallex and in the meantime, improve the Mariners temporarily. I don’t think we will see it. But for the good of the player and the team, it is time to make the move.

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