Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has been on the disabled list for nearly a month with a quad injury that apparently had been bothering him for several days prior to the club making the DL move. Smoak wasn’t doing much at the plate — .208/.282/.361, 7 HR at that point — and now Logan Morrison is, and to further complicate the roster situation, the club activated Corey Hart from the disabled list Friday.
Smoak’s rehab assignment has five days remaining. When it expires, the Mariners can do one of a number of things to deal with the roster crunch:
1. Option Smoak
Smoak has an option left and can be sent to Triple-A Tacoma. This doesn’t solve anything per se, but it could buy them some time as the trade deadline nears.
2. Activate Smoak, use three players for two spots
This is the most likely scenario. While the idea of Hart playing any outfield is probably gone since he went on the disabled list with a hamstring issue and missed all of 2013 with microfracture surgeries on each knee, the Mariners could opt to use Morrison, Hart and Smoak at first base and designated hitter, with the lineups determined by matchups.
Morrison could also play a little outfield where he’s below average and susceptible to further injury himself but is a better bet to handle it than is Hart at this stage.
3. Delay and Restart
If Smoak has any signs of the quad injury lingering the club can pause his rehab for five days and restart his rehab assignment, again buying them some time to make a more permanent decision.
Of course, this only works if Smoak is having any kind of issue that warrants such a move.
4. DFA Smoak
This is the least likely of the scenarios since there’s no reason to completely buy into Morrison-Hart as full-time answers at first base and designated hitter, but it is a route the club can take if they so choose.
Smoak, however, appears to be part of this team and if Lloyd McClendon looks forward and sees enough potentially-favorable matchups where Smoak has an advantage over Hart or Morrison (and yes, there will be some) Smoak won’t be designated for assignment.
With the DFA of Cole Gillespie Friday to make room for Hart, the club is down to four true outfielders in Michael Saunders, Endy Chavez, James Jones and Dustin Ackley, with Willie Bloomquist a fifth option. All of the first four bat left, however … this may suggest GM Jack Zduriencik feels he’s close to acquiring a right-handed batting outfielder.
It also may be a sign that the club feels Gillespie will clear waivers and become an option for them again, and/or that McClendon is comfortable enough recalling Stefen Romero if the need arises.
Either way, Smoak figures to be recalled next week barring a trade acquisition that further muddles the roster water.
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