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Justin Smoak Returns, First Base Shuffle

Justin Smoak is recalled from AAA, and Alex Liddi goes back down. The Mariners have some moderately simple decisions to make with first base.

Leon Halip

Justin Smoak has returned to the Mariners after a short rehab stint in the minors, where he hit .238/.273/.333 over five games. Smoak is worth having over Alex Liddi, who was really only an emergency option, predictably striking out in 7 of his 17 PA. Liddi will go back down to Tacoma where he will continue trying to fix his crippling strikeout issues.

Justin Smoak had a solid run before he got hurt, but still sits at a 105 wRC+ overall, underwhelming yet again. Smoak's May wRC+ was 128, but the Mariners have seen his tease before and the subsequent fade. Now, after injury and a mediocre rehab stint, it shouldn't be expected that Smoak will continue where he left off in May, which really wasn't that great to begin with.

Mike Morse is completely hobbled right now and can barely get to second base when he hits balls into the gap, jogging gingerly in. Putting him in the outfield doesn't seem like a realistic option right now, and the team has gone so far past putting him on the disabled list that they're unlikely to cave now. Morse is currently sporting a -7.6 UZR in the outfield which ranks him 6th worst among otufielders, tied with Raul Ibanez. The Mariners already have baseball's worst OF defense by UZR (-23.2), and sticking a 60% speed Morse out there would make for an even worse disaster.

Mike Morse shouldn't be in the outfield right now (or ever), but still needs to be playing regularly in order to showcase his trade value. Same goes for Kendrys Morales, but some days off wouldn't kill him as he still recovers from his back injury, and he's cooled down quite a bit too. That doesn't leave a lot of at bats for Justin Smoak, who doesn't deserve a full slate of them at this point. The Mariners are fully committed to their one year rental plan for 2013, and Morse and Morales shouldn't lose playing time to a player like Smoak who hasn't earned them.

One way or another, it seems like a realistic possibility that one of Morse or Morales will be gone by the end of July, and Smoak will get his final final (no really guys this is it we promise) chance to be the Mariners first baseman of the future. If he puts together another teasing September like last year and the Mariners hand him the job in 2014, I might explode. I'm tired of Justin Smoak.