The Mariners announced they have claimed OF Canaan Smith-Njigba off waivers from the Pirates. Smith-Njigba is the older brother of Seahawks rookie wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (who has my same birthday! Happy almost birthday, birthday twin!).
The baseball-playing Smith-Njigba was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 Draft by the Yankees, but flipped to the Pirates in 2021 as part of the Jameson Taillon trade. If you follow the AFL, Smith-Njigba was a Javelina that fall, joining Mariners Zach DeLoach and Cade Marlowe in Peoria’s lineup. He’d go on to make his debut for the Pirates in June of 2022, but his first season was interrupted with a right wrist fracture just two days in. He opened the 2023 season with the Pirates but was quickly returned to Indianapolis as he struggled to get going over the first two weeks of the season.
Muscular, with a broad and strong six-foot frame, Smith-Njigba has plus raw power and also takes his fair share of walks, while also striking out more than his fair share. That might sound like a traditional TTO player, but the power hasn’t really been booming as yet: he hit just one home run in his first go at Triple-A in 2022 before following that up with 15 in a second go-round. Victory Field, where the Indianapolis Indians play, is a notorious homer-suppressing park, so there is some context to that, but the larger question is if Smith-Njigba will be able to limit the strikeouts enough to get to his power while also elevating the ball more—over his career, he’s pounded the ball into the ground at an alarmingly high rate for someone whose standout skill seems to be in the power department.
At the very least, T-Mobile Park, which plays friendly to left-handed hitters seeking power, and the general bounce houses of the Pacific Coast League—Smith-Njigba does have at least one MiLB option year—should prove more hospitable hitting environments for the burly slugger.
To make room for Smith-Njigba, the Mariners have announced they’re DFA’ing perpetual Tacoma rotation stalwart Darren McCaughan. They risk losing some emergency rotation depth if another team wants to pick him up and add him to their 40-man, although the addition of Austin Voth, who can start or go long out of the pen, offsets that concern some.