What do you make of the reports of Robinson Cano being unhappy in Seattle?
-- Alice M., Everett, Wash.
That all stemmed from a New York reporter who said he heard it from a longtime friend of Cano's. So all I can tell you is that in two years of covering Cano with the Mariners, he's always been very upbeat and positive with his teammates and the media, and he has repeatedly said -- and more importantly, acted like -- he's happy to be in Seattle. Obviously he'd like to have played better in the first half and wishes the team had fared better, but he said at the end of the season he was looking forward to getting healthy again and seeing what moves new general manager Jerry Dipoto made this winter.
Cano repeated those sentiments last week in an interview with ESPNdeportes.com in the Dominican Republic, saying he'd communicated well with the new regime since the season ended and didn't know where that report came from.
"I feel good," he said in Spanish. "Content, really very grateful for the treatment of the fans, the management, the team. I really feel very happy. ... I'm where I want to be."
Bottom line, Cano has eight years and $192 million remaining on his contract and isn't likely going anywhere no matter how he feels. Ten-year deals often come with problems toward the end of the contract for any player in any sport, but honestly, I don't think there is any issue with Cano after just two seasons in Seattle.
Is it true the Mariners want to move Cano to first base?
-- Zach R., Fircrest, Wash.
I've always felt Cano eventually will move to first base at some point later in his career, but I don't think -- and I don't believe the Mariners think -- that time is here yet. Dipoto said last week he expects Cano to have a strong year as the team's second baseman in 2016. And that's where his greatest value lies, if he's healthy as expected after double sports hernia surgery in October.
With the problem of offense at catcher, why not go after Chris Gimenez? He's always been a good backup even when he was a Mariner before.
-- George H., Prescott, Wash.
I liked Gimenez when he was with Seattle in 2011, and he had a nice year as the Rangers' backup last season, but he is still under contract with Texas. Dipoto signed Chris Iannetta to be the primary catcher next season, so his decision now is whether to let Mike Zunino develop as the backup or continue working for now in Triple-A. If Dipoto chooses the latter, he could pursue another veteran -- and someone like Gimenez would seem a good fit, if he is available by trade.
Are there going to be five jersey combinations again next season, or is the team looking to pare down the uniform set?
-- Paul B., Seattle
After adding the Sunday "cream" colored alternate jerseys last year, I'm told there are no new uniform changes expected in the coming season.
Are the Mariners seriously considering Patrick Kivlehan at first base?
-- Darnell, New Westminster, B.C.
I haven't heard that, but first base is the one position that seems most unsettled at this point. Mark Trumbo is the front-runner, but the Mariners have to decide if they want to tender him a contract by Wednesday and lock into a likely $9 million arbitration price tag. Jesus Montero is another candidate, and it's clear that Dipoto is willing to make moves, and he has plenty of offseason to pursue further alternatives. Kivlehan started 26 games at first for Tacoma last year, but he played mostly in the outfield and previously has been a third baseman. And while he hit 22 homers last year, it's not clear that Kivlehan's an MLB-ready hitter after posting a .255/.313/.453 line. Montero hit .355/.398/.569 in the same league.
If the Mariners don't re-sign Hisashi Iwakuma, what kind of starter would they look to replace him with, or would they just roll with what they already have on the roster?
-- Nic S., Bellevue, Wash.
The club's top priority this offseason is to sign Iwakuma. If he goes elsewhere, that would open up some money -- he'll likely cost at least $13 million or more a year -- but it would also create a hole in the middle of the rotation. In that case, I'd certainly expect them to target that money to pursue a mid-rotation starter to take his place, whether through trade or free agency. And even if Iwakuma does sign, I wouldn't be surprised to see Dipoto add another younger -- and cost-controlled -- starting candidate via trade, as he did with Nathan Karns.
The Mariners have finished in the bottom two or three among all MLB teams in on-base percentage for more than a decade. Do you see Dipoto's moves as having a positive impact on OBP?
-- Ron C., Carmel, Ind.
Former GM Jack Zduriencik went heavy after on-base guys in 2010, when he brought in Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley, but he did increasingly shift to power over OBP after that experiment failed. Dipoto and new skipper Scott Servais definitely will emphasize working at-bats and turning the lineup over, but it will take time -- and more moves and future drafts -- to put together an organization that totally fits that mold. Iannetta should help immediately in that regard at catcher, and that factor might enter into Trumbo's future at first base, as he's historically been a low-OBP guy.