Seattle’s Achilles Heel
The Seattle Mariners outlook on the first base position was bright coming into 2012, after a sharp 2011 September for Justin Smoak and a scorching hot second half of the season for Mike Carp, the question was not if there would be success, but which one would deliver it.
With the addition of Jesus Montero taking up the DH spot, Carp found playing time in LF in order to get all three big bats in the lineup.
Then the reality of 2012 settled in. Carp struggled with injuries the majority of the season, and just when Mariners fans did not think it could get any worse the day Ichiro was traded, the M’s sent Smoak to triple-A Tacoma.
Not that Smoak’s demotion was undeserved; he finished the year (excluding AAA stats!) with a .217 BA and 19 HR’s and 51 RBI’s. Smoak has played 1B for three years in Seattle, and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in that time is -0.1, gross.
In Carp’s 59 games with the club, he only added a .213 BA with 5 homers and 20 RBI’s. Maybe he was hurt all season, but in all likelihood, Carp is quad-A player, good to great in the minors, but not quite enough against Major League pitching.
Let’s assume GM Jack Zduriencik is not assuming turnarounds from either player and line up some options for the Mariners.
This is the least likely, and least expected of the three options for Seattle. The Mariners under Jack Z have been extraordinarily shy in the free agency department, except for the inadequate and overpaid Chone Figgins, of course.
Also, the free agent class at 1B is nothing to gush over.
Nick Swisher: His agent has mentioned that the most annoying player on the Yankees is looking for “Jason Werth money” despite never hitting well in Oakland or Chicago without Yankee-type lineup protection.
Adam LaRoche: Not a terrible option if the Mariners played every home game at altitude instead of sea-level and enjoyed watching swinging strikeouts.
Kevin Youkilis: No.
Getting warmer with this option, the M’s have pieces in the minors and starting pitching that teams covet. Excluding players that have giant contracts or are too costly, here are some options that might work.
Ike Davis: The Mets’ 1B is in need of a scenery change. New York can be difficult for players to escape distractions and Davis’ production has never reached his potential. This option seems the most likely for a Mariners team that is building on youth, perhaps struggling prospects could switch homes with a Smoak plus “pitcher A” for Ike Davis?
Mitch Moreland: Clearly, we have been down the Texas hitters’ road before without success, but it might be inexpensive to dip one more time.
This is the winner. The Mariners front office probably hoped to avoid this, but there are two first round picks that could play at first and produce.
Dustin Ackley: He played 1B at North Carolina, he played there this season and looked comfortable, perhaps Ackley is the answer. The main reason for doing this would be the rise of Nick Franklin, who is being groomed as the Mariners next great shortstop in the minors. If he is ready but the M’s want Brendan Ryan and his gold glove caliber defense to remain at short, this is an option to fill the infield.
The Mariners better think of something soon, 1B is too valuable a position to be filled with combined .215 hitters in Carp and Smoak.