SEATTLE - While Robinson Canó will garner votes among the top MVP Award candidates in the American League, and Nelson Cruz drew considerable recognition again as one of baseball's top sluggers, Kyle Seager quietly went about putting together one of the best seasons in baseball in 2016.
Per baseball-reference.com, Seager ranked sixth in the AL in WAR (wins above replacement) at 6.9, a healthy hike over his 4.3 from 2015 -- and even from the 5.8 in his '14 All-Star and Gold Glove Award season.
The only players ahead of Seager on that WAR list are all being prominently mentioned in MVP discussions: Mike Trout (10.6), Mookie Betts (9.6), José Altuve (7.7), Josh Donaldson (7.4) and Cano (7.3).
Seager ranked ninth in the AL in offensive WAR -- a testament to his career highs in virtually every offensive category with 30 home runs, 99 RBIs and a slash line of .278/.359/.499. But what will surprise many are the 28-year-old's defensive rankings, where the third baseman was ninth in AL defensive WAR despite tying for the most errors (22) in the league at any position with Texas second baseman Rougned Odor.
Errors are only part of the equation, and Seager scored extremely well in many of the defensive metrics used to measure a player's effectiveness in the field. Seager tied Adrián Beltré of the Rangers for the most Defensive Runs Saved (15) of any AL third baseman.
Seager had the highest Range Factor ( 3.11) of any AL third baseman, he started more double plays (46) than any other AL third baseman, and he proved his durability again with the most games (156) and innings (1,399 2/3) of any player in the AL at his position.
John Dewan, one of the leaders in baseball's defensive metrics, lists Seager as one of the top three contenders for the AL Gold Glove Award at third base this year -- along with Beltre and Baltimore's Manny Machado -- on his statoftheweek.com blog.
Dewan also sees Cano as a top-three candidate at second base for both a Gold Glove Award, and the Fielding Bible Award, which goes to the best defenders in both leagues.
While Seager's outstanding season might have flown under the radar of some, he was certainly appreciated by first-year manager Scott Servais.
"He had a fantastic season," Servais said. "Awesome. About as consistent as could be. The squeaky wheel usually gets the oil. He's not a squeaky wheel. He's not a high-maintenance guy. He's a guy you just write his name in the lineup every night, he's playing good defense, he's getting big hits. He's so valuable."
Seager was frustrated by falling just short of a playoff berth in the Mariners' 86-76 season, but he headed home to North Carolina feeling good about the direction of the club.
"It was a lot different feel here the whole year," he said. "The atmosphere was quite a bit different than in years past. Much more loose, more relaxed, more fun. I think there are a lot of good things to build on. We just need to get over the hump next year."
Seager would have been entering his final year of salary arbitration and preparing to become a free agent after next season, but instead he became part of the Mariners' longterm plans when he signed a seven-year, $100 million deal two years ago that will keep him in Seattle at least through 2021.
And Seager believes that future is bright following the Mariners' progress this past year.
"I think so, without question," Seager said. "If you look at everything here, there's stuff to build with, which is nice. We got close in '14, but it didn't have the same feel. This was a group -- especially down the stretch -- that felt like we were going to win. That's a really special thing. Obviously, [executive VP and general manager] Jerry Dipoto did a great job assembling everything, and [Servais] took over and did a phenomenal job, I thought, as well."
Seager will take about a month off from baseball before resuming workouts in Salisbury, N.C., where he'll be joined by brothers Justin and Corey -- as soon as Corey is done with the playoffs with the Dodgers.
Kyle is having a batting cage put in at his house, which will make workouts a little easier for him, though he acknowledges the drive will be a little further for his brothers. But as the oldest sibling, he has some privileges. And he also has an extra reason for keeping close to home -- in addition to his wife, Julie, and their son, Crue.
"We're expecting our second child here soon," he said. "So I'm sure I'll have my hands full with that. It'll be good."