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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Alex Jackson, of|
|2. Edwin Diaz, rhp|
|3. Drew Jackson, ss|
|4. Tyler O’Neill, of|
|5. Nick Neidert, rhp|
|6. Luiz Gohara, lhp|
|7. Braden Bishop, of|
|8. Andrew Moore, rhp|
|9. Boog Powell, of|
|10. D.J. Peterson, 1b/3b|
The Blue Jays and Mariners came into the major leagues together in 1977 as expansion brethren. They were linked together again this year because when Toronto reached the postseason, it left Seattle with the game’s longest postseason drought.
That absence, since the club’s record-setting 116-win season in 2001, has made the Mariners grow fonder for free agent fixes, and the signings of Robinson Cano in 2014 and Nelson Cruz for 2015 were supposed to help push Seattle back to the top of the American League West.
Cruz hit 44 homers in a boffo first season at Safeco Field. Cano started poorly but rallied to post a season that would look good on the back of any baseball card, and stalwarts such as ace Felix Hernandez and third baseman Kyle Seager continued their steady excellence.
But general manager Jack Zduriencik, in his seventh season, never surrounded those stars with strong complementary talent. So Seattle posted a losing record for the fifth time in his tenure, bringing that tenure to an end and prompting an overhaul of the front office.
Jerry Dipoto, who began the season as GM of the rival Angels before he resigned at the end of June, was named to the same post in Seattle in late September. Soon thereafter, he fired manager Lloyd McClendon and brought in his former assistant GM from the Angels, Scott Servais, to manage the Mariners. Dipoto also imported former Rockies coach Andy McKay as his farm director and promoted Tom Allison from pro scouting director to overseeing both the pro and amateur scouting departments.
While scouting director Tom McNamara was retained, the Mariners simply must draft better. They finally gave up on 2009 No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley, trading him to the Yankees after his bat failed to emerge. They sent 2012 first-rounder Mike Zunino, drafted third overall, to the minors in 2015. Lefty Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in a loaded 2011 draft, never has stayed healthy and was removed from the 40-man roster in November. Early returns on first-rounders D.J. Peterson (2013) and Alex Jackson (2014) have been mixed.
Dipoto already has reshaped the big league club with eight trades in his first few months on the job. Notably, he has acquired starters (righty Nathan Karns, lefty Wade Miley) and bullpen pieces (righty Joaquin Benoit and lefty C.J. Riefenhauser), middle defenders (outfielders Leonys Martin and Boog Powell, shortstop Luis Sardinas and catcher Steve Clevenger) and a middle-of-the-order bat (Adam Lind).
Dipoto also signed closer Steve Cishek, catcher Chris Iannetta and outfielder Nori Aoki, executing all his moves on a budget and with a barren farm system that is leaning heavily on an encouraging 2015 draft class.
Seattle looks better equipped to contend and to take advantage of the window of opportunity that still remains cracked due to the brilliance of Cano, Cruz, Hernandez and Seager.