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Dipoto eyes end to Mariners' postseason drought

MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- In the 15 months since Jerry Dipoto was hired as the general manager of the Mariners, he has overseen such a thorough roster overhaul that second baseman Robinson Cano, third baseman Kyle Seager and catcher Mike Zunino are the only holdovers in the starting lineup.

Oh, and Zunino was sent back to the Minor Leagues at the start of last season after Dipoto picked up veteran catcher Chris Iannetta for a one-year stay to give Zunino time to refine his offensive skills.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- In the 15 months since Jerry Dipoto was hired as the general manager of the Mariners, he has overseen such a thorough roster overhaul that second baseman Robinson Cano, third baseman Kyle Seager and catcher Mike Zunino are the only holdovers in the starting lineup.

Oh, and Zunino was sent back to the Minor Leagues at the start of last season after Dipoto picked up veteran catcher Chris Iannetta for a one-year stay to give Zunino time to refine his offensive skills.

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Dipoto has given a complete overhaul to a bullpen that doesn't include any players who were in the big leagues with the team when he became the GM on Sept. 28, 2015. He has also added two members of what would be the rotation if the season opened today, Ariel Miranda and Nathan Karns.

And he is busy at the Winter Meetings looking to add a proven veteran starter.

MLB.com and MLB Network have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 6 a.m. PT.

Do not, however, call what the Mariners are undergoing a rebuild.

Dipoto doesn't.

The Mariners haven't been to the postseason since 2001, a drought that is the longest in the big leagues. In that same stretch, the four other American League West clubs have combined to make 21 postseason appearances -- seven by the Angels, six by the A's, five by the Rangers and three by the Astros.

Even though the Mariners could open the season with a lineup that could include rookies Mitch Haniger in right field, Dan Vogelbach at first base and Ben Gamel in left, Dipoto is looking to end that postseason drought in 2017.

"Our intention is to be a factor," said Dipoto. "We aren't getting younger if they are in the Minor Leagues."

And truth be told, the AL West is easily the most wide open of the six big league divisions.

The two-time defending champion Rangers did sign right-hander Andrew Cashner two weeks ago, but that came in the wake of first baseman Mitch Moreland, outfielders Carlos Gomez and Ian Desmond, DH Carlos Beltran and pitchers Colby Lewis and Derek Holland becoming free agents. Beltran has since signed with the Astros and Moreland appears to be headed for Boston.

An Astros team that rebounded from a six-year stretch in which it averaged 98 losses per season to claim an AL Wild Card spot in 2015 slipped back into third place last season.

The Angels have made one postseason appearance in seven years and are coming off their worst season (74-88) since 1999.

And the A's, after three consecutive postseason appearances, are coming off seasons of 68-94 in 2015 and 69-93 in '16.

There's no sympathy for any of those teams from Dipoto.

Mariners fans figure it is their turn, and Dipoto feels he is putting together a roster that can answer that wish.

Young? Yes.

But Dipoto is quick to point out it is talented, too.

Gamel, coming off back-to-back seasons with the Yankees' Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre team hitting .300 and .308, was an Aug. 31 acquisition, the Mariners giving up two Minor League pitchers for the outfielder who is out of options.

"He was the MVP in the International League," said Dipoto. "I don't know what else you can ask him to do."

Haniger, who came with shortstop Jean Segura from the D-backs in a November trade for Taijuan Walker, is being counted on to provide the Mariners with a much-needed right-handed-hitting power bat. Splitting the season between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Haniger hit a combined .321 with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs.

"He can't play any better," said Dipoto.

And Vogelbach, the Mariners' key addition from the Cubs in the Mike Montgomery trade, is coming off a Triple-A season in which he hit .292 with 23 home runs and 96 RBIs, but has been challenged defensively, although Dipoto feels that Vogelbach's brother, a strength and conditioning coach, could be a key in that area thanks to an offseason program that has been designed to loosen up Vogelbach's body.

"If they're playing in Tacoma, you're only getting younger in theory," Dipoto said of the commitment to using the three rookies in the big leagues. "This is getting younger in practice. They are young in terms of their experience, but every one of those guys has been excellent to better-than-excellent as a Minor League player.

"These are real players who have done what they need to do in the Minors, and they're ready to play. Whether it's one of them or three of them on a given day, I know [manager Scott Servais] is excited about the athleticism, about the energy, about what they bring to the table."

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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