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Inbox: How could Felix not win AL Cy Young Award?

Beat reporter Greg Johns fields questions from Mariners fans
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

Here's the latest in our Inbox series. You can submit a question of your own.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how surprised were you that Corey Kluber won the American League Cy Young Award over Felix Hernandez?
-- Frankie O., Tukwila, Wash.

Here's the latest in our Inbox series. You can submit a question of your own.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how surprised were you that Corey Kluber won the American League Cy Young Award over Felix Hernandez?
-- Frankie O., Tukwila, Wash.

I've got to admit, I was probably a nine on the sure-thing meter for Hernandez on that one. Kluber had a very good year, but I felt Felix was historically good and on some pretty significant levels. His 2.14 ERA was the best by an AL pitcher since 2000, and his 0.915 WHIP was the second best by an AL pitcher since the designated hitter came into play in 1973, while Kluber was at 2.44 and 1.095. Strikeouts and some other metrics favored Kluber, though I didn't think by a significant enough amount to sway the vote.

Why do writers vote on the Cy Young? Why not let the players do it? Players knew Felix was the best pitcher in the AL this year.
-- Gary W., Spokane, Wash.

Baseball writers have been charged with electing league MVP Award winners since 1911. Rookie of the Year Award winners were added in '47, the Cy Young Award winners in '56 and Manager of the Year Award winners in '83. Those four awards have always been voted on by baseball writers representing each city with an MLB team, so there is a lot of history and tradition associated with those honors.

Video: Felix on winning 2014 AL Outstanding Pitcher award

As for Hernandez's situation, here's an interesting note. In the 21 years since the Players Choice Awards began, the person selected by the players as the AL's Outstanding Pitcher has also won the AL Cy Young Award 18 of those years. But Hernandez has now been involved in two of the three times the players didn't agree with the writers. He was the Players Choice Award winner this year, with Kluber taking the AL Cy Young Award. But David Price was the Players Choice winner in 2010, when Hernandez won the AL Cy Young Award. And Mariners fans certainly didn't complain about the difference of opinion that year.

That's the thing to remember in all these awards. They're just a matter of people's opinions, and not everyone is destined to agree. Timing could also have been a factor this year, as the players voted on Sept. 16 -- a week before Hernandez's rough start in Toronto -- while the writers' votes were due the day after the regular season ended.

Are the Mariners pursuing a trade for Evan Gattis as a DH? It seems like he would be an ideal fit, considering he's young, cheap, hits right-handed with some power and could help Mike Zunino out with some of the catching duties.
-- Inigo O., Manila, Philippines

Video: Johns discusses Zunino's potential with Mariners

The Mariners are definitely in pursuit of a right-handed bat or two, and Gattis indeed appears a logical target, with the Braves reportedly still interested in moving him and/or Justin Upton for pitching. There are lots of teams talking right now about all kinds of trade options, most of which will never happen. But general manager Jack Zduriencik has said from the day after the season ended that Seattle is looking to balance its lineup with some right-handed or switch-hitters, and the question now is how the Mariners best fill that need. With several of the top options already off the free-agent market -- Victor Martinez, Russell Martin, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler were among the first to sign -- a trade might be an increasing likelihood.

I read that Jesus Montero elected to bring his family to Seattle for the offseason so he could work on his conditioning and game improvement. Do we know if he is making sufficient progress to fit into the team's long-term plans?
-- Gary, Surprise, Ariz.

Video: SD@SEA: Montero muscles a two-run homer to left field

Montero is spending much of the winter in Arizona, working out at the Mariners' complex in Peoria. Obviously he's got significant work to do to get back into the team's plans, both on and off the field, after two disappointing seasons. Montero is still just 24 and could help as the right-handed bat Seattle needs at DH, but he needs to put in the time and effort to show he deserves such consideration before there can be any expectation that he'll play a role with the Major League club.

Are there any rookies that appeared with the Mariners in 2014, like Taijuan Walker, who will still technically be rookies in '15?
-- Dick K., Arlington, Wash.

The Mariners played 10 rookies last season, but only one of those -- reliever Carson Smith -- will still qualify as a rookie next year. The basic rookie guideline is a player must have less than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days on the active roster during the 25-player limit.

Any chance of Ichiro Suzuki coming back to the Mariners? I feel that he's a good DH candidate who can fill in spot starts in the outfield.
-- Mas Y., Tokyo, Japan

A number of people raised this question after the Yankees indicated they aren't interested in bringing Ichiro back. But despite his history with Seattle, I really don't see a match with the Mariners, whose greatest needs are for a right-handed-hitting outfielder and a DH with some pop. Even while playing in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, Ichiro's slugging percentage was just .340 last season. Seattle needs to find a middle-of-the-order threat at DH, and a 41-year-old Ichiro doesn't fit that bill. It's also hard to go back in time, as the Mariners learned with Ken Griffey Jr. They are a young team that needs to look ahead, not back.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.

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