The Mariners announced Wednesday that they’ve claimed outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba off waivers from the Pirates. Right-hander Darren McCaughan was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster. At least for the time being Smith-Njigba will head to the same city as his younger brother, Jaxon — a wide receiver for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
Now 24 years old, Smith-Njigba was one of four players the Yankees traded to Pittsburgh in the trade that brought righty Jameson Taillon to the Bronx. He’s posted nice minor league numbers but seen minimal time in the big leagues. Through 44 MLB plate appearances, Smith-Njigba is a .135/.250/.243 hitter, but he’s posted a .273/.366/.439 slash in parts of three Triple-A campaigns. That includes a 2023 season that saw him slash .280/.366/.473 (110 wRC+) with 15 homers, 28 doubles, a triple and a 21-for-26 showing in stolen base attempts. Smith-Njigba also walked at a strong 11.9% clip with Indy this past season, but his 26.5% strikeout rate could stand to improve.
Smith-Njigba has drawn praise for above-average raw power and speed in the past, though that raw power hasn’t translated to much in the way of home runs. Last year’s 15 round-trippers were a career-high, and he’s only reached double digits in homers in one other season. Smith-Njigba’s strong walk rates and left-handed bat will help the Mariners to replace some of the outfield depth they lost when trading Zach DeLoach to the White Sox and Jarred Kelenic to the Braves. He has a minor league option remaining and has hit reasonably well at virtually every minor league level, evidenced by a career .277/.382/.429 slash in six professional seasons.
McCaughan, 28 next month, has spent his entire career in the Mariners organization since being taken in the 12th round of the 2017 draft. He’s twice received a call to the big leagues but has just 14 MLB frames under his belt, during which he’s been slammed for 11 earned runs. The right-hander posted respectable Triple-A numbers in a hitter-friendly league environment during the 2021-22 seasons but was roughed up for a 5.83 ERA in 139 Triple-A frames in 2023. Overall, he carries a career 5.22 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Mariners’ Tacoma affiliate, though his aforementioned ’21 (4.46 ERA, 121 innings) and ’22 (4.55 ERA, 154 innings) performances were a far sight better.
The Mariners will have a week to trade McCaughan or attempt to pass him through outright waivers. He still has a minor league option remaining. If he goes unclaimed, he’ll have the right to reject an outright assignment by virtue of a previous outright earlier in his career, but his longstanding tenure in the Mariners organization could make him likelier to accept if things reach that point.