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New Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto's 1st big move will be deciding fate of manager Lloyd McClendon


SEATTLE — Now the wait begins to see what the first big move of Jerry Dipoto's tenure as general manager of the Seattle Mariners will be.

Does Lloyd McClendon return as manager in 2016? Or does Dipoto change field managers and bring in his own choice?

"I look in the mirror every night and I know I gave it everything I had every day," McClendon said. "My players gave me everything they had every day. Some nights it was good enough, some nights it wasn't very good. But, the effort was always there. Obviously, we've got to shore some things up from the talent standpoint."

The 2015 Mariners were one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. Coming off an 87-win season and with expectations at a level not seen in more than a decade, the Mariners flopped because of an inconsistent bullpen, a sometimes shaky rotation and an offense that was non-existent for most of the first half of the season.

Instead of playing in the postseason for the first time since 2001, the Mariners now own the longest playoff drought in baseball at 14 seasons and counting. Seattle finished 76-86 after dropping nine of its final 11 games. The underachievement cost former general manager Jack Zduriencik his job and might end up costing McClendon his as well.

Seattle never recovered from a disastrous 2-9 homestand in late May and early June. The Mariners came off the road at 23-23 and by the time they left Seattle again, they were seven games below .500. The Mariners never again reached the .500 mark.

"That pretty much stuck us in a rut we were trying to get out of the rest of the way," McClendon said.

Here's a look at the 2015 Mariners and where they might go from here:

PHOTO: Seattle Mariners' Kyle Seager (15), Seth Smith, and Brad Miller share congratulations after a baseball game Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Seattle. The Mariners won 3-2. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Mariners' Kyle Seager (15), Seth Smith, and Brad Miller share congratulations after a baseball game Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Seattle. The Mariners won 3-2. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

KEY HITS: It's hard to argue with the signing of Nelson Cruz. The slugger put to rest the concerns of Safeco Field being an unfriendly ballpark for hitters with 44 home runs, second in the major leagues. Beyond just the homers, Cruz became a better overall hitter, with a .302 batting average and 93 RBIs.

"I didn't come here to try to hit 44 homers. I came here to try to help my team win games. I guess I came up short," Cruz said.

Felix Hernandez continued to be one of the top pitchers in baseball with 18 wins, but was highly critical of his own performance this season.

"I'm not happy with what I did this year," Hernandez said. "I've got to prepare myself for next year now and do better."

COSTLY ERRORS: While much of the attention was placed on the lack of offense in the first half, McClendon's biggest disappointment at the All-Star break was Seattle's bullpen.

The offense came around, but the Mariners bullpen never got settled. A year after being the best relief staff in baseball, the Mariners' bullpen was 20-36 had a 4.17 ERA and had 24 blown saves. That was tied for the fifth-most blown saves in franchise history.

WINTER SHOPPING LIST: Adding players on the periphery will be one of Dipoto's offseason tasks. Seattle's core is well set with Cano, Cruz, Kyle Seager and young versatile options in Ketel Marte and Brad Miller. But the Mariners must get more athletic in the outfield, find a couple of more arms in the rotation and add significant depth to a bullpen that simply did not have enough options.

WHAT TO DO: Seattle's only major pending free agent is right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who turns 35 at the start of next season and has been slowed by injuries each of the past two seasons. Iwakuma finished 9-5 with a 3.54 ERA and threw the first no-hitter of his career this season, but made just 20 starts.

UP AND COMERS: Marte and starting pitcher Taijuan Walker are the most promising youngsters the Mariners will be counting on next season. Walker went 11-8 with a 4.56 ERA in 29 starts, while Marte hit .282 in 56 games.

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