Robbie Ray: Mitch Haniger helped sell me on joining Mariners

Dec 1, 2021, 10:25 AM | Updated: 1:05 pm

Mariners LHP Robbie Ray...

Robbie Ray of the Toronto Blue Jays throws to an Orioles batter in the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

After mostly sitting on the sidelines for free agency since beginning a rebuild after the 2018 season, the Mariners made their biggest signing in years this week, inking reigning American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to a lucrative five-year contract.

Dipoto: Mariners still have time, engaged in several possible deals

Ray, 30, is coming off his best season as a pro by far. During his 2021 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays, Ray made 32 starts to go 13-6 with a 2.84 ERA and 248 strikeouts to just 52 walks over 193 1/3 innings. Ray led the AL in ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched to earn him the AL Cy Young Award at the end of the season.

Now, Ray comes to a young Mariners club coming off a 90-win season and looking to end the longest active postseason drought in major North American professional sports.

Ray’s deal with the Mariners was made official Tuesday night, andhe conducted his first interview as a member of the team Wednesday morning with a conversation on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk Show.

“Yeah, it’s really good,” Ray said of how he’s feeling after signing with the Mariners. “This whole process, everybody in the front office, (general manager Jerry Dipoto), (assistant GM Justin Hollander), speaking with (manager Scott Servais) and ownership, they’ve all been great in this whole process and helping us get to know the Mariners and learn a bit more about the city. And it’s just been a really fun, really exciting process.”

Ray said he had an “extensive meeting” with Dipoto, Hollander and Servais that helped him see what the Mariners had to offer for his new home.

“We sat down and talked about the direction of the team and talked about the vision for the future,” Ray said. “And man, they just really sold me on it.”

The front office and Servais weren’t the only ones who sold Ray on coming to the Pacific Northwest.

Ray said that pitcher Marco Gonzales and catcher Tom Murphy reached out to him after word came out that he was signing with the team, but before then it was his former Arizona Diamondbacks teammate that he said played a hand in recruiting him.

That teammate? Star outfielder Mitch Haniger.

Ray and Haniger played in Arizona together on the big league club in 2016, which was the year of Haniger’s MLB debut. Ray said Haniger, who fired up teammates and fans earlier this offseason with a passionate column in The Players’ Tribune, did a great job selling him on the team, the city and the fan base.

“Man, he’s passionate,” Ray said of the Mariners’ right fielder. “He was in it. He was in it last year.”

In particular, Haniger made it clear what the atmosphere was like during Seattle’s final homestand, which included raucous sellout crowds at T-Mobile Park as the Mariners made a push towards the playoffs.

“He felt the energy from the fans that last week of the season,” Ray said. “That last homestand having 45,000 fans, he felt that energy and he could feel that push that the fans were getting behind him, and he said it was infectious.”

Hearing that from Haniger in particular meant a lot, Ray said.

“To hear that from a guy that has gone through the rebuild process and is coming out the other end of it saying that he feels that way about the city and about the team, it just makes the decision a lot easier,” Ray said.

You can listen to the full conversation between Ray and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

More on new Mariners ace Robbie Ray

• Robbie Ray explains his tight pants, why he joined M’s
• Ryan Rowland-Smith explains Robbie Ray’s breakout ’21 season
• Gustafson’s Breakdown: What to know about Robbie Ray
• Drayer: Where M’s offseason stands after adding Robbie Ray

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