Replacing Justin Smoak

It’s always fun at the ballpark when the Mariners come up with quirky headlines to celebrate a players’ home runs. My personal favorite has always been “Funk Blast” being flashed over the left field scoreboard at Safeco Field:

 

158-funkblast

 

I don’t know why I like it, but I do. My second all-time favorite has got to be “Smoak Bomb”. How can you not like it when Justin Smoak parks one in the right field seats and “Smoak Bomb” is flashed all over the stadium?

Smoak is entering his arbitration year in 2014. That can mean a lot of things. For me, it doesn’t mean much because statistically, he hasn’t done much. Defensively, he’s been amazing. I think we can safely say this about 90% of the team; their defense is stellar and quite frankly, hard to replace. Just look at Brendan Ryan. Those are some gigantic shoes to fill.

Smoak posted a .995 fielding percentage this season, down from .997 last year but up from .993 the following year. So I’m not going to sit here and split hairs over a couple of errors that probably could’ve been credited to a bad throw from either short stop or second base. This season, his WAR is 0.9. Guess what? I don’t care about saber metrics because it kills all arguments about whether a player should stay or go, and it’s also ruining baseball. I added his WAR stat just to make that point, by the way.

First base is hard to fill. It takes a lot of talent to play that position, and Moneyball explained it very well by saying “players can’t hide at first base,” It’s true. They can’t. So let’s look at our options if in fact Jack Z decides to cut Smoak loose.

Corey Hart- Why not? He has first base experience AND he’s a pretty good outfielder. He’s a career .276 hitter and he smacked 30 home runs this year. The only down fall is he’s pretty expensive. If he were to come to Seattle, he’d either take a pay cut or now be the highest paid Mariner on the current roster over Felix Hernandez. Let’s keep looking, shall we?

Paul Konerko- Another dream but a better chance than Corey Hart, right? Konerko has been teetering on the idea of retirement but sources say he plans to play in 2014. Since he’s been playing with the Whitesox since 1999, I highly doubt the Mariners would be able to make him an offer he couldn’t turn down. Next!

James Loney- Ah. Here we go. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, first round, 19th pick out of the 2002 amateur draft, Loney is a free agent in 2014. He’s signed a one year, $2 million dollar contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and could easily be in a Mariners uniform next season. He has postseason experience, he’s a career .285 hitter, and posted a .303 BA in 154 games this season. I’d say sign this guy for three seasons at $5 mil a piece. Done.

Kendrys Morales- Morales, 30, is batting .284/.340/.449 with 17 homers in his first season with Seattle. The Mariners acquired him from the Angels straight up for Jason  Vargas in a trade last offseason. The  switch-hitter is earning $5 million this season, so he’s owed roughly $1 million for the remainder of the 2013 season. His second half numbers have declined slightly and he’s only played first base 27 times this year. If the  Mariners are to make a qualifying offer of roughly $14 million following the season and were he to decline such an offer, Seattle would gain a compensatory pick in the 2014 draft. Cut him loose and sign Loney.

Justin Morneau- Ten seasons with the Twins and now with Pittsburgh. His last contract was for 6 years at $80 million. Morneau has won two Silver Slugger awards, been an MVP three times and been an All-Star four times. In 11 seasons, he’s posted a .996 career fielding % and been quite productive offensively. I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle made him an offer.

If Seattle does hang onto Smoak, I won’t be upset. I think he has a lot of potential to be a great hitter along with being great first basemen. Sometimes I think back on if the Mariners had help Casey Kotchman with his eye problem, things could have been different. Then again, that’s sort of reaching because who knows what else may have happened.

 

 

 

 

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