Deal done, Smoak can focus on baseball
PEORIA, Ariz. -- With his contract situation clarified by Saturday's agreement on a one-year deal, Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak said he's eager to turn his attention to baseball, as position players are scheduled to report on Monday.
Smoak avoided a Wednesday arbitration hearing by agreeing on the $2.63 million deal, which also contains a vesting option for 2015 at $3.65 million. If Smoak accumulates 525 plate appearances this season, the $3.65 million will be guaranteed for the following year. If not, the Mariners have the choice of keeping him for that amount or giving him a $150,000 buyout and letting him return to the arbitration process.
"I'm excited to get it done," Smoak said Sunday. "I can look forward to baseball and get everything taken care of now and get ready to go. We've got a great team, and I'm excited for what the season is going to bring."
As for the option year, which is somewhat unusual for a player in an arbitration-eligible situation, "It's something we were excited about," he said. "It's good for both sides. I just need to go out and play and do what I'm capable of doing and good things will happen."
Among those is earning regular playing time, which is something of a question now that the Mariners have acquired Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, who can both play first base as well. But Smoak said he's not concerned about that.
"I feel like it's somewhat my job to lose, and I'm excited to get this thing going," he said. "It's always good to have more bats. Losing guys like [Kendrys] Morales and [Raul] Ibanez, it's good to add a couple more."
Smoak hit a career-best 20 home runs last year, but had only 50 RBIs while hitting .238. He expects more from himself and so do the Mariners.
"I'm just getting to know him," said new manager Lloyd McClendon. "One of the things we'll try to impress upon him this spring is to be a good hitter, not a home run hitter. What that entails is using the whole field, driving balls to the gaps, be a good two-strike hitter. And when they make a mistake, you hit it out of the ballpark.
"But if your mindset is to go up there thinking, 'I have to hit a home run,' then you're not going to be much of a hitter. There's a lot of attention there, and he continues to improve and get better, but we've got to push those RBIs up, and he's got to be a more productive hitter."