Justin Smoak's long, arduous tenure with the Mariners has finally come to a close, as he's now the property of the Toronto Blue Jays after being claimed on waivers. Smoak ends his Mariner career as one of the worst first basemen in baseball over the past 25 years, relative to the massive amount of rope he was given. The centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade often teased and rarely delivered with any consistency, making him one of the most disappointing Mariners of the past decade.
The writing was on the wall. Earlier this month, it came out that the Mariners weren't planning on bringing back Smoak, who was out of options and held a 2015 team option partially though his arbitration years. The buyout on that deal was $150,000, which presumably means the Mariners avoided paying that, as Toronto claimed him before that transaction took place.
The Mariners should feel absolutely no guilt about moving on, as Smoak received more than his fair shot to grab a wide-open job for the future, and couldn't do it. You can point the finger at teams moving on from prospects too quickly more times than not. This is unequivocally not one of those times.
It's not that Smoak has no promise at all, just nowhere near the superstar potential he once carried. His 111 wRC+ in 2013 was the best of his career, but 2014 fell to new lows. It's not that Smoak was a terrible hitter all the time, because he wasn't -- but for his position and the teases that held first base hostage until 2013, those memories will carry on. Maybe he finally will deliver in some regard, moving to a hitter's park. But a future playing in Safeco Field didn't hold enough promise to carry on.
There's been a lot of speculation that Adam Lind may be on his way out of Toronto, which would leave Justin Smoak as somebody to possibly replace him, for some reason. What are the Blue Jays thinking? Who knows. Smoak was awful in 2014 (77 wRC+), and spent most of the year in AAA, where he hung a nice 138 wRC+. But we've been here before. It doesn't seem like there would be many suitors for Smoak with that $3,650,000 option hanging out on waivers, and they probably could have gotten him for less after the Mariners bought him out of his deal. At this stage in his career, Smoak is lucky to be wearing a major league jersey. Yet he will, probably. So we beat on.
It's a sigh of relief. Exhale. Smoak is (was) the face an era of Mariners baseball that is now, hopefully, maybe, please, in the rearview mirror -- light-hitting offenses, wasted potential, and teases that almost never end as they suggested. Eternal disappointment. The future is yet unwritten for Smoak, but his past is full of memories most Mariner fans can't wait to forget, and soon will. There were some good ones scattered within -- but the pain and frustration of his late-season bursts will linger.
Yet 1,943 plate appearances later, he's finally gone. May your future tree punches actually knock some down, Justin. Safeco Field's warning track just got a little less worn.