Seth Smith represents many things to the Seattle Mariners in 2016. First and foremost, he's an important piece of the lineup, likely the 4th or 5th best hitter on the team. Seth Smith is further responsible for burning the Mariners protected draft pick. He also figures to play heavily in a rotation with Franklin Gutierrez, who hasn't survived a whole season since the pre-Fetty Wap days. Seth Smith is so much more than that though, and he is exactly the sort of player Jack Z seemed incapable of acquiring over the course of his tenure in Seattle.
See, here's the thing about Seth Smith: he is quite boring. He takes walks, plays adequate defense, squares the ball up nice and hard, and presumably enjoys his coffee with both sugar and cream. But there is another thing about Seth Smith: he is quite good. Over 450 PA's last season he produced over two wins, posting a 113 wRC+ with twelve bombs and a 10% walk rate. Seth Smith is The Professional.
Now, let me skip to the surprise here. Steamer projects a down year for Ol' Smethers. Essentially, The Man sees his defense falling off a cliff. Granting that last year was his best defensive season since 2010, there is little reason for me to believe that this platoon outfielder's defense will crumble. If anything, having Leonys Martin on hand should mitigate concerns about the outfield's defense as a whole, even if Smith does slip a bit. What's more is that at thirty-three years old, we've yet to see his bat speed fall off, and platooning with Guti should allow Seth to feast almost exclusively on right-handers. Perhaps a full season of a healthy Seth Smith could look something like the midpoint of his career year with the Padres and the season we all just witnessed. That's an exciting player.
Seth Smith represents something else to fans in Seattle. He represents a reason why Jerry Dipoto did not sign a Big Name Outfielder this offseason. I often cried, less than 20% joking, that the M's should sign Jason Heyward. Yet, the outfield splash was a comparatively meager drop in the bucket, a small signing that netted Nori Aoki (a deal that I do not bemoan). Many of us were left scratching our heads at the lack of an impact acquisition. But Seth Smith is the sort of player who keeps you from having to spend money, who allows you to stay in the game longer before going all-in. Competent and useful players at below-market value allow organizations to spend money elsewhere (see: Nelson Cruz) and flexibility is always a welcome trait. So my pilates instructor says and so it must be.
Seth Smith is 33-years-old and under team control for multiple seasons. He could be a key cog in the drivetrain of a Pinczower headed straight towards victory, or a trade piece at the deadline as Dipoto looks to reload for 2017. The former seems more likely than the latter, but again, there's that flexibility. Like almost every single team in the AL, Seattle's season could end with a World Series title or a two-week vacation in the Gobi desert without water. There is something beautiful about the struggle.
Want a prediction for Seth Smith in 2016? Here it is: the dude just rakes. He drops his strikeout rate a bit, hits eighteen bombs, knocks in 74 runs, somehow steals five bases, and guns out Coco Crisp trying to take home. Why do I think that? I don't know. Because life is precious and looking into the future without any means of hope ruins the exercise for me entirely.
In the moment it happened, I called Seth Smith's acquisition the best move for a position player of Jack Z's regime, and I still believe that. In Seth Smith we have a useful player who, when deployed appropriately, watered-well, and planted in deep enough soil provides a beautiful sunflower year-over-year. If anything, Seth Smith represents an ideal that we as Mariners fans have become unfamiliar with - incredible adequacy. Here's to another year of The Professional.