A month ago, I wrote that I was ready to give up on the idea of Justin Smoak as a core part of the team’s future, and start exploring alternatives at first base. Since I hit publish on that post, Smoak has hit .128/.200/.244 in 85 plate appearances, with his slugging percentage only getting over .200 because he faced a stretch of Triple-A pitchers in Kansas City last week. Smoak is completely and utterly lost at the plate right now, and his season line has sunk to .191/.255/.323, which grades out as the second worst offensive performance of any full time player in baseball this season. For comparison, Justin Smoak’s wRC+ (60) is essentially the same as Brendan Ryan‘s (59), and only one of those two provide any defensive value.
It’s time to send Justin Smoak to Tacoma. If he’s fixable, having him get embarrassed by big league pitchers on a nightly basis isn’t helping anything, and he’s a massive liability in the line-up right now. With Carp coming off the DL, the team has the opportunity to make the switch, and they should take advantage of it. Maybe a 6 week stint in Tacoma will help him get back on track. Maybe he’ll continue to be exposed as a guy without as much offensive talent as everyone thought he had. Regardless, the organization needs to use those six weeks to see whether or not he can respond to a change of venue and a chance to hit minor league pitching again.
It's fascinating -- albeit in a sad sort of way -- to take note of what has happened to Smoak, and to realize that his career is basically fishtailing out of control right now. He's still comparatively young, yeah, but this is his age-25 season and he's just going further and further backwards, and while we used to look at Smoak and believe that his floor was near league average, this is now looking more and more like a case of his developmental ceiling being league average. I imagine the Mariners would be thrilled to get a league-average, 2.0-2.5 WAR first baseman out of Smoak at this point
I also realize that Smoak's been plagued by injuries and personal setbacks (e.g. the death of his father last year), and I imagine that all has taken a major toll on him and hindered his development to some extent, but, geez, you wonder if the Rangers had any inkling that Smoak would still be wallowing around in sub-replacement level hell a couple of years later when they made the decision to include him in the Cliff Lee deal and squeeze the trigger.
Update: The Mariners optioned Justin Smoak to Triple-A Tacoma last night. So it goes.