How small is the Mariners’ window to win with their core stars?

Feb 18, 2016, 8:00 AM | Updated: 9:22 am
The Mariners are committed to long-term contracts for Felix Hernandez, 29, and Nelson Cruz, 35. (AP...
The Mariners are committed to long-term contracts for Felix Hernandez, 29, and Nelson Cruz, 35. (AP)
(AP)
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The moves made by first-year Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto this offseason, while plentiful, weren’t particularly indicative of whether the team is pushing to contend now or rebuilding for a run down the line.

There’s good reason for that, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs told “Bob, Groz and Tom” on Wednesday – with Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz still able to produce All-Star-caliber numbers, they’re in a position where both scenarios could be possible.

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“I think that they’re trying to kinda have their cake and eat it, too,” Cameron said, “where they want to be around .500 and put themselves in a position where (if) Felix has another Felix year and Cano bounces back and some of the kids perform a little bit better and Ketel Marte establishes himself as the shortstop, they have an opportunity to contend. And they could take advantage of it if the team’s playing well in the first half of the season.”

As possible as that could be, Cameron said the Mariners’ window to make noise with Hernandez (29 years old), Cano (33) and Cruz (35) leading the way is closing. And once it’s closed, Dipoto will then really have a tall task on his hands.

“I think realistically the team probably has a two- to three-year window with this core, and then they’re going to have to get really creative,” he said. “Jerry Dipoto’s gonna have to draft really well, they’re going to have to hit some real bargains. When you’ve got the back end of Cano’s deal, the back end of Cruz’s deal, Felix isn’t quite what he (was), you’re gonna have a huge chunk of the payroll tied up in less productive players.

“You’re gonna have to have some of these young kids really step up or you’re gonna have some rebuilding years. So I think in the next two to three years, they need to make one run with this core or else it could be five, six years before they’re really kinda loading back up for another run.”

In the meantime, at least, Dipoto has done a nice job addressing a lack of depth – which Cameron called the “hallmark” of previous general manager Jack Zduriencik’s teams – which will maximize the potential of the Mariners making a run in 2016.

“I think Dipoto’s done a nice job of adding in insurance policies, where ‘If this guy doesn’t work out, that’s OK, we have this guy around. If Leonys Martin doesn’t hit, well we’ve got (Boog) Powell.'”

That’s all assuming the stars keep up their production, however, which isn’t the easiest assumption to make.

“I think they’ve done a decent job acquiring depth, but when you acquire depth I think the trick is you’re probably counting on a few of your star players playing really, really well. So they’re gonna need Felix and Cano and those guys to perform at a high level, because the rest of the roster isn’t necessarily guys who you can expect to carry you if those guys aren’t doing very well.”

Bob, Groz and Tom

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How small is the Mariners’ window to win with their core stars?