Hidden behind the shocking news that the longtime face of the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki, was traded away, was another major move by the Mariners front office. First baseman Justin Smoak has been demoted to AAA Tacoma, according to the Seattle Times.
Smoak, acquired by the Mariners along with Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and another prospect from the Texas Rangers for Cliff Lee, has been the Mariners' starting first baseman all season, but he has struggled at the plate.
Smoak, 25, was expected to be a home-run hitting slugger who could possibly serve as the Mariners' cleanup hitter. However, Smoak has struggled at the plate this year, batting .189 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI.
Throughout the season, Smoak has shown that may not be a bust after all. In early July, Smoak was named American League Player of the Week. And in May, Smoak hit six homers with 18 RBI, while batting .255. If he repeated those numbers every month, Smoak would finish with 36 homers and 108 RBI—stats the Mariners would like him to have.
The demotion is an opportunity for Smoak to get back in the swing of things and show he can be a consistent offensive force. Tacoma will hopefully provide that opportunity and will allow rehabbing Mike Carp to return to Seattle.
“This is for him. This is what we feel like is the right thing to do for him right now. To give him a break, to get him in a different environment without the pressure of being in the big leagues, to where he can go down there and work to get on track. To find it and to find it with some consistency.
"And this is a guy, a power-hitting switch-hitter that’s been unbelievable defensively for us at first base this year—hard worker, good kid—so, it’s the best thing for him right now."
In Smoak's absence, either Carp or the AAA Tacoma Rainier's current first baseman, Luis Jimenez, will likely be the everyday starting first baseman.