Hidden behind the shocking news that the longtime face of the Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki, was traded away, was another major move by the Mariners front office. First-baseman Justin Smoak has been demoted to AAA Tacoma.
Smoak, acquired by the Mariners along with Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and another prospect from the Texas Rangers for Cliff Lee, has been the Mariners starting first-baseman all season, but has struggled at the plate. Smoak, 25, was expected to be a home run hitting slugger and possibly serve as the Mariners’ cleanup hitter. However, he has struggled at the plate this year batting .189 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI.
Throughout the season Smoak has shown that may not be a bust after all. In early July, he was named American League Player of the Week and in May Smoak hit six homers with 18 RBIs, while batting .255. If he repeated those numbers every month, Smoak would finish with 36 homers and 108 RBIs — stats the Mariners would like him to have.
The demotion is an opportunity for Smoak to get back in the swing of things and show he can be a consistent offensive force. Tacoma will hopefully provide that opportunity and will allow rehabbing Mike Carp to return to Seattle.
After Mondays 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees, Eric Wedge talked of Smoak and the move.
“This is for him. This is what we feel like is the right thing to do for him right now. To give him a break, to get him in a different environment without the pressure of being in the big leagues, to where he can go down there and work to get on track. To find it and to find it with some consistency. And this is a guy, a power-hitting switch-hitter that’s been unbelievable defensively for us at first base this year — hard worker, good kid — so, it’s the best thing for him right now.”
In Smoak’s absence, either Carp or the AAA Tacoma Rainier’s current first baseman, Luis Jimenez, will likely be the everyday starting first baseman.
(This article also appears on Bleacher Report, and has been published on Seattle Sports Nut by the author).