Is it time for Mariners to demote Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak to Triple-A?

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Thanks in large part to Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders, the Mariners offense hasn’t been as bad as expected this year. The team is struggling mightily right now, though, having scored just four runs in four games, and if changes are going to come, this would seem to be right part of the schedule to make them.

Dustin Ackley is hitting just .220 with two extra-base hits in 82 at-bats this month. He is walking quite a bit, but he’s also striking out a whole lot. With 24 strikeouts this month, he’s up to 67 in 281 at-bats for the season. Overall, he’s hitting .242/.318/.335.

Justin Smoak is doing even worse, and the homers are no longer obscuring that fact. He’s gone hitless in five straight games, leaving him at .206/.268/.341 for the season. He does have 11 homers in 267 at-bats, but they’re not making up for the absence of singles and doubles. In fact, he has just three doubles all season.

The Mariners are currently prepared to stay the course, manager Eric Wedge told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Which makes sense. They weren’t expected to contend in the AL West this year anyway, and they don’t have any obvious upgrades awaiting in the minors. For all of Ackley’s struggles lately, he’s still not having that awful of a season. He has a respectable .722 OPS outside of Safeco. Smoak, if nothing else, is on pace for 23 homers and 67 RBI.

If the Mariners did make a move, it’d be more along the lines of a wake-up call than anything else. They know Ackley is the future at second base. They still have to figure out whether Smoak is a long-term answer. They certainly want him to be, but he now has 1,042 major league at-bats and a career OPS of .677. With Mike Zunino drafted to be the catcher of the future, the Mariners could move on from Smoak if he fails to improve and go to Jesus Montero at first base.

But nothing is happening right now. There isn’t really anyone to replace Ackley in Triple-A. Alex Liddi could step in at first if needed, but he’s a weaker bet than Smoak. If Smoak is still slumping when Mike Carp is ready to come off the DL, perhaps in three or four weeks, then maybe the Mariners will make the change. As is, they’re just going to hope for the best.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.