By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — First baseman Justin Smoak avoided a looming arbitration hearing by reaching agreement Saturday with the Seattle Mariners on a one-year deal that includes a club vesting option for 2015.
Smoak, 27, will make $2.6375 million this season. His 2015 option for $3.65 million will vest if he gets 525 plate appearances, but the Mariners have a $150,000 buyout.
His 2014 salary is the exact midpoint between what Smoak sought ($3.25 million) and what the Mariners offered ($2.025 million).
The agreement extended the club’s streak of not engaging in an arbitration hearing since 2003 with pitcher Freddy Garcia.
The Mariners previously reached agreement with two other arbitration-eligible players: outfielder Michael Saunders and first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison.
Smoak batted .238 last season with a career-high 20 homers and 50 RBI in 131 games. He faces increased competition this spring for playing time following the off-season acquisitions of Corey Hart and Morrison.
The Mariners acquired Smoak, a switch-hitter, from Texas in a July 9, 2010 trade with infielder Matt Lawson and pitchers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke for pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe.
Any lefty relievers in the Mariners’ camp can take this as a help-wanted posting: manager Lloyd McClendon would like to have three of you on his 25-player roster.
“I can’t say I’m going to have three,” McClendon cautioned. “In a perfect world, I’d like to have three. And we’ve got some viable candidates. Guys who have good arms.”
McClendon previously indicated Charlie Furbush as a virtual lock for a spot after compiling a 3.74 ERA last season in 71 games.
Other lefty candidates include Lucas Luetge, Joe Beimel, Randy Wolf and Bobby LaFromboise.
Reliever Ramon Ramirez remains absent from camp because of visa issues in departing from the Dominican Republic. Catcher Manny Pina took part Saturday in his first workout after his delayed arrival from Venezuela.
Infielders and outfielders aren’t required to report until Monday, but 20 of the 25 players are already in camp.
The exceptions: second baseman Robinson Cano, infielder Carlos Triunfel and outfielders Abraham Almonte, Endy Chavez and Burt Reynolds.