Justin Smoak Must Produce for Seattle Mariners in 2014


Aug 23, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) hits a single against the Los Angeles Angels during the 7th inning at Safeco Field. Los Angeles defeated Seattle 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Justin Smoak, what is it going to be? Are you going to finally live up to your purported potential? Or, will this be your last year with the Seattle Mariners?

Smoak and the Mariners avoided arbitration and the contract will pay him almost $2.8 million in 2014. The contract has a $3.65 million club option in 2015, but also a $150,000 buyout. In other words, the Mariners can sever ties without a huge expense.

As with many contracts, there are a number of incentive clauses, though it is hard to see Smoak meeting some of them. If he does, all the better.

This will be a key year for Smoak. When he came from the Texas Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal, he was seen as a key piece of compensation for a top-flight pitcher. Unfortunately, Smoak has not exactly lived up to the hype.

At times, Smoak has looked like a prototypical power-hitting first baseman, but those moments have been brief. The more frustrating statistic is the .227 batting average during his short career.

Could Smoak finally put it all together, hit .270 and mash 30 home runs? Certainly possible, but fans are not going to hold their breath that the “Smoakamotive” will roll along consistently throughout the year.

First base and DH could be popular spots for the Mariners, so Smoak will need to distinguish himself early. He plays good defense, but the Mariners may sacrifice that if the bats of Jesus Montero, Corey Hart or Logan Morrison are more needed in those positions.

It is fair to suggest that at 27, Smoak is no longer in the “prospect” category. Now is the time to play like a big-leaguer or start thinking about another career.

2014 may indeed be Smoakamotive time. It could also be the last run for yet another once-promising youngster that just never figured out life at the big league level.

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