By Brent Stecker
The Seattle Mariners are counting on some surprises to lead them to a successful 2013 season. Just don’t count on those surprises coming from first baseman Justin Smoak or outfielder Jason Bay, ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law said on “Afternoons with the Go 2 Guy” on 710 ESPN Seattle.
Smoak, a former first-round pick who was the centerpiece of the Mariners’ haul from the Texas Rangers in their 2010 Cliff Lee trade, has managed just a .223 average in three full Major League seasons. The 26-year-old has had a promising spring training, hitting .390 with three home runs and eight RBI in 13 games, but that isn’t enough to sway Law.
“As a long-time supporter of Smoak, I think that ship has unfortunately probably sailed,” Law said. “If you’d seen him at (the University of) South Carolina and you see him now, just everything is slower about him. I’ve seen the data that he just basically can’t hit a slider at this point. The agility he had … seems to be gone. (There has been a) decline in athleticism over the last three or four years.”
Bay, a 34-year-old free-agent pickup and three-time All-Star, came to the Mariners looking to revive a career that was on life support after three disappointing seasons with the New York Mets. He also has played well this spring, hitting .323 with two homers and four RBI, while challenging Casper Wells for the team’s fourth outfielder spot, but Law doesn’t like what he’s seen from the veteran.
“Bay stinks. I really think Jason Bay has nothing left to offer a big league team,” Law said. “Stats aside, just watching him I don’t see any chance that he’s a productive big leaguer this year, whereas Casper Wells I think is a very useful fourth outfielder. You need fourth outfielders — you need guys who can confidently bounce around the outfield and have some ability to come in and pinch-hit. That’s to me a much better use of a roster spot than what almost feels like a sentimental play of Jason Bay.
“I saw Bay a week ago and walked out thinking, well he’s gonna get released in a week. There seems to be nothing left at the major league level. To me, no way I’m keeping him over Casper Wells.”
Law also talked about what to expect from second baseman Dustin Ackley and catcher Mike Zunino this season, the formerly defensive-minded Mariners’ switch in philosophy, and the rest of the AL West with Jim Moore, Danny O’Neil and Dave Wyman on “Afternoons with the Go 2 Guy.”