Given the amount of time Justin Smoak has spent disappointing the Seattle Mariners, the endless chances he's received, and the future of the Mariners at first base still in at least some flux, seeing this obvious news still comes as a mild surprise to our beaten, battered minds. Justin Smoak was the embodiment of the Mariners for the greater portion of Jack Zduriencik's regime, he and terrible offenses are eternally and intrinsically intertwined.
Finally, the end may be near. While examing the Mariners contract situation for 2015, Ryan Divish has reminded us that Justin Smoak signed a deal that has a club option for 2015, he's also out of minor league options. That deal has a $150,000 buyout, and the M's are expected to give him his final paycheck and wish him good luck.
Smoak is clearly behind Logan Morrison for the first base job, and he's due $3,650,000 if the M's don't cut him loose, and there's no chance he cracks a 25-man roster out of spring training. There's a pretty good chance that this is the beginning of the end for Smoak's career, as he heads down the path of many arbitration/out of options casualties -- he's not going to earn a starting job, and a bench role as a plodding first baseman who can't hit is a long shot. He'll have to settle for a minor league deal AAA and an injury call-up to get back into the majors. There's always a chance Smoak ends up back in the organization as depth after his release, but I wouldn't bank on it. Smoak's been given a million chances to succeed and has failed to sustain any kind of production, finally hitting bottom this year after putting together the worst season of his career. It wouldn't be a surprise if Smoak has taken his final major league at-bat.
After this year's disaster, Smoak has a career wOBA of .305, OPS of .689, and wRC+ of 94. Assuming this is the end, he'll end his Mariners tenure with the worst wOBA and OPS of any first baseman in the past 25 years, with a minimum of 2,000 PA.
It seems almost unbelievable, but most (or all) other first basemen who have struggled to Smoak's level haven't ever made it to 2,000 PA, let alone the 2,218 Smoak has been handed. There will be no tears for untapped potential with a lack of opportunities. Smoak took a historic level of chances and promptly became one of the worst hitting first basemen in a lot of your lifetimes, and if you're not into park adjustments, he was the worst.
Still, Smoak did provide some big hits and exciting moments over the years for the Mariners, along with solid defense at first base. He's always seemed like a nice guy, and he's a new father. He'll never be what he was hyped to be, but there's a serviceable hitter in there somewhere. I sincerely hope he puts it together in another organization. If not, he's become a millionaire playing a game at age 27, and that's a pretty good way to spend the first part of your life.