The Mariners have finally seen enough; Justin Smoak was demoted after a fourth straight hitless game Monday in the loss to the Yankees. He was 1-for-20 with 12 strikeouts over his previous six games, dropping his average to .189.
In truth, the Mariners likely would have sent Smoak to Triple-A few weeks ago had they possessed anyone worth replacing him. Mike Carp is finally set to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, and while he started the year in left field, he’ll likely play first base for now.
The Mariners may not have completely given up on the 25-year-old Smoak, the key player they received from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal two years ago, but it’s doubtful they’ll be quick to bring him back. While he did have 13 homers in 344 at-bats, they came with a .253 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage was also held down by the fact that he had just six doubles.
It’s likely that Smoak will get his job back in September as the Mariners try to decide whether he should be included in their plans for 2013. After drafting catcher Mike Zunino third overall last month, the Mariners may consider trying Jesus Montero as their first baseman next year.
The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.
Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.
Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.