With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Mariners squad each day this week. Today's topic: The perfect season.
SEATTLE -- The goal for the 2017 Mariners is no mystery. After 15 years without a playoff berth, Seattle's perfect season would be to end the longest postseason drought in the Major Leagues and see how far they can run in October.
"I'd like to make the playoffs and 'win now' is always my mindset," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "We want to win."
That goes without saying for every MLB franchise, of course. Every team's perfect finish would be to win the World Series and host a championship parade through its city's downtown streets. But the Mariners appear better poised to make a legitimate run at playoff fun this year with a club that Dipoto has worked feverishly to upgrade since taking over following a 76-86 season in 2015.
Most preseason prognostications have the Astros favored in the American League West, with Seattle in a battle with defending division champion Texas for the second spot and the Angels expected to be in the hunt as well.
But after finishing just shy of a Wild Card berth last season after their 10-win improvement to 86-76, manager Scott Servais' immediate message to his club was that the goal for 2017 should be winning the division and not leaving things up to the Wild Card risks.
Dipoto believes he's improved those chances by addressing last season's shortcomings -- speed and defense -- without taking much away from an offense that finished second in the AL in home runs (223) and third in scoring (768).
Nor has he touched the nucleus of talent he inherited from former GM Jack Zduriencik, choosing to build around the four players with long-term deals already in place by upgrading the talent around them.
"I'll say it as plainly as I can," Dipoto said. "When you have Robinson Cano, who arguably had the best year of his career last year and is playing in his mid-30s at an All-Star level; when you have Nelson Cruz, who's roughly led the league in homers for three years running; when you have Felix Hernandez at 31, a former Cy Young Award winner who, last year is the first time he failed to throw 200 innings in about a decade; when you have one of the pre-eminent third basemen in the league [Kyle Seager], who can do a lot of things offensively and defensively, and you've committed roughly $75 million annually for those players, you are in a win-now mode.
"You don't get those players to rebuild. You get those players to go win and our job is to build a roster around that quartet of players that will allow them to perform to the best of their abilities," Dipoto said. "We did that last year. I think we raised the floor. We were less reliant on that quartet of players doing what they do and the result was they did more. They elevated their game and the team around them got better."
Now the challenge will be to take the next step, which would be getting over that playoff hump and back to the postseason for the first time since Seattle's 116-win season in 2001. These Mariners won't win 116, but they could have the mix to get into the 90-win range and end that dry spell.
One of the players the team added, speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson, knows all about that climb as he was part of the Royals squad in 2014 that ended Kansas City's 28-year drought by reaching the World Series that year and winning it all the next.
"Wherever I go, the champagne flows," Dyson said at the Mariners recent FanFest.
And if that comes true, the Mariners are headed for their perfect season indeed.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.