It could be do-or-die time for Justin Smoak.
With Mike Carp returning to the disabled list because of a strained groin, the Mariners brought Smoak back to the majors on Tuesday. He’ll likely play regularly at first base as the team tries to determine whether to include him in its plans for 2013.
Smoak hit just .242 and failed to homer in 20 games for Triple-A Tacoma. Obviously, that’s not very encouraging at all. The good news is that he had a 16/16 K/BB ratio in his 66 at-bats. He was at 85/29 K/BB in 344 at-bats for the Mariners this season. And while he didn’t homer in his stint at Tacoma, he did have six doubles. That’s just as many doubles as he managed in five times as many at-bats for Seattle.
Smoak is still relatively young at 25, but he’s had 1,119 major league at-bats to prove himself and he’s currently sporting a .215/.297/.365 line. If he doesn’t take a big step forward in the Mariners’ final 45 games, the team will have to weigh giving up on him and installing Jesus Montero at first base going forward. Montero isn’t going to last at catcher, a point the Mariners seemed to concede when they drafted Mike Zunino third overall in June, and given that he’s struggled mightily as a DH this year, first base might be the best long-term option for him.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.