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Salk: Turns out Mariners’ window of opportunity is opening, not closing

A new Mariners core featuring Mitch Haniger has opened the window for Seattle. (AP)

I have recently been considering a new way of envisioning the Mariners and where they are in the winning process. Previously, I – like most everyone else – believed them to be on the last legs of an aging core.

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The thinking was: win now or blow it up. Essentially, Félix Hernández, Canó, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager had their chance, and if they couldn’t deliver then it was time to move on. Every decision and thought about what they would do at the trade deadline and who they would deal was built on that premise.

But what if the premise has changed?

They have won without Canó. They are winning despite limited offense from Seager and below league average pitching from Félix. They are winning with a different core.

Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura, James Paxton, Edwin Díaz, Mike Zunino and Dee Gordon all need to be in any core conversation, and they’re all locked up to multi-year deals (as are Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales, Ryon Healy and Ben Gamel). All are either entering their prime or at least still in it. Cruz is still a major part of what they do and he is a good candidate for a David Ortiz-type deal in which the team and player mutually decide to extend the deal one more year at the end of each season.

Seen through that lens, the Mariners may be closer to the opening of a new window than the closing of an old one. And if that’s true, then in theory it allows them to be more aggressive in trading prospects for veterans at the deadline.

As great as that sounds, I think we should remember two things.

First, general manager Jerry Dipoto has shown that he always wants a prospect back in every deal. He seems adamant that his organization not age rapidly. Second, because this team never went through a true rebuild that gave them a killer minor league system, they still have limited resources there.

As nice as it is to envision a new core, the Mariners are still rebuilding a broken farm and every prospect they deal makes that an even tougher climb. If the window is opening rather than closing, perhaps it takes some of the desperation away and allows them to learn how to win now and win playoff series later.

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