Inbox: Who was the MVP of the Mariners?

Beat reporter Greg Johns fields fans' questions

October 8th, 2018

Who do you think was the Mariners' Most Valuable Player this year?
-- Ron J., Lake Tapps, Wash.

I liked this question so much that I put up a Twitter poll to see what fans thought. was favored by 59 percent of the more than 1,800 respondents, with Mitch Haniger at 37 percent and at 4 percent.
Personally, I'd say Haniger as I think his every-day contributions were hugely valuable over the 162-game season. He finished among the top 15 players in the American League in at-bats, hits, runs, RBIs, doubles, walks, on-base percentage and OPS. He tied for first in the Majors in outfield assists. He hit for power (26 homers), but was so versatile he wound up being a catalyst as the leadoff hitter over the final six weeks. He had the highest bWAR among any Mariners at 6.1 (ninth among AL position players) and well above Diaz's 3.2.
All that said, I certainly understand the case for Diaz, given his historic season and direct impact on helping Seattle win so many close games. His MLB record 27 one-run saves were remarkable, as was the Mariners' 66-0 record when he entered with a lead. Even though my pick would be Haniger, I don't think there's a wrong choice between those two.
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Why didn't the Mariners have Diaz pitch in the final game to have a chance to hold second place alone in single-season saves?
-- Bev, Newcastle, Wash.

I was a little surprised as well that manager Scott Servais didn't put Diaz in for the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead over the Rangers, giving the save opportunity instead. But Servais noted that Diaz had thrown 27 pitches the previous night in notching his 57th save of the season, and there just wasn't a need to risk anything further. The difference between being tied for second all-time with Bobby Thigpen and being alone in second is pretty minimal. Either way, it was an amazing season.
Here in Albuquerque we remember Dee Gordon coming up in the Dodgers system as a shortstop, which he played a little this year. Any chance the Mariners move in trade and play Gordon at short as a way to settle the /Gordon position questions?
-- Mike E., Albuquerque, N.M.

I certainly don't rule out that possibility as -- unless Gordon is moved permanently to center field -- something needs to give in the Mariners' logjam of infielders. Gordon looked outstanding at second base, but he handled himself well in seven starts at shortstop as well. As you note, that's the position he came up in the Minors with the Dodgers and didn't get switched to second until his fourth season in the Majors.
Gordon, 30, definitely has the range to play shortstop and though his arm isn't as strong as Segura's, he certainly appeared capable of handling the position. The question is whether the Mariners want to trade Segura, who was outstanding in the first half of the year in tandem with Gordon at the top of the order, then saw his production and attitude tail off when things got tough down the stretch.
At 28 and with four years and $60 million remaining on his contract, Segura in theory should be part of the younger nucleus the club wants to continue building around. Some hard decisions are coming this winter, among them whether Segura is part of that future, where exactly Gordon fits and how Cano, 35, will best be deployed over the final five years of his contract.
As much as we love Cruz, isn't it time to put that money somewhere else in the lineup next year and let Nellie find his bliss elsewhere?
-- Butch W., Tumwater, Wash.

This is another difficult question facing general manager Jerry Dipoto. Here are the facts: Cruz is 38 years old, but still led the Mariners with 37 homers and 97 RBIs. His batting average (.256) was his lowest since 2007, his on-base (.342) his lowest since '14 and his slugging percentage (.509) his lowest since '13.
That is still very strong production for a team that needs to improve its offense, and Cruz is a very positive veteran presence in the clubhouse and community. But if Cruz is beginning the start of his inevitable decline, would the Mariners be wiser to invest elsewhere as you suggest? My gut says they need Cruz, and if he's willing to take a one-year deal with an option in the same neighborhood as his previous $14 million a year salary, it's a no-brainer.
If another team is willing to guarantee Cruz multiple years or more money, then the question becomes a lot tougher because Cano or could ultimately handle the designated-hitter duties, and the roster would be more flexible with a rotating DH and that money used to go toward a quality outfielder or rotation piece.
Do you think the Mariners would ask any of their former pitching coaches if they would be interested in the current opening? I'm thinking specifically of Rick Waits?
-- Janae, Portland, Ore.

My assumption is they'll be looking in a new direction, likely someone with some background in analytics to work with returnees Brian DeLunas and Jim Brower. Waits, 66, was let go along with manager Lloyd McClendon when Dipoto took over three years ago and was coaching most recently in Taiwan.