Other than being an objectively excellent transaction, yesterday's Mike Montgomery for Dan Vogelbach trade could symbolize something larger.
"The attraction here was getting younger and deeper and really starting to fill some positions of critical needs for us moving forward," Dipoto said
This is an important statement, because while the team isn't admitting to selling, they are admitting to thinking about the future while sacrificing the present. How much of a sacrifice Mike Montgomery represents is entirely up for debate, but even the most pessimistic fan would say that MiMo has done well this year and had value to this team as presently constructed.
While the front office isn't yet ready to step over the ledge and focus on the long-term, perhaps they should. The Mariners playoff odds are currently about one-in-seven after being better than one-in-four just a month ago, and two-in-three earlier this year. Things have not gone well as of late, and despite taking the series from the White Sox, there's not much light at the end of the tunnel. King Felix's return from the DL isn't going to save us, and neither will Mike Zunino or Norichika Aoki.
So what is there to do? The team can play out the year as-is and try to patch the holes next year like they were able to do during the 2016 offseason, but folks like Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, and Nelson Cruz are likely to decline, and the bullpen and outfield will need some serious work while operating on a limited budget. If we're brutally honest with ourselves, it's unlikely the team is able to make the improvements necessary to make the postseason in 2017. If the team isn't able to make the playoffs in the next year or two, the club should move to improve with an eye on 2018, or more realistically 2019.
If the team keeps wallowing in mediocrity with a patchwork roster, it won't be able to optimize future clubs as quickly as they could if they focused on the road ahead. If the team is able to look inward and ownership is able to stomach a couple seasons of losing, it would be prudent to trade some players currently on the roster to acquire more talent who will be of greater use down the line. Some of these players who would be on the block are obvious; free agents-to-be Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee, for example. Some players are fairly clear choices, but still mean a downturn in 2017: Seth Smith, Steve Cishek, Chris Iannetta, and Hisashi Iwakuma, for example. However, decisions will have to be made about those who will still be under contract in a couple years.
Someone like Nelson Cruz will be quite old then and could fetch a hell of a return today, so should probably be traded while healthy and productive. Robinson Cano will likely still be effective in a few seasons, but after that no one knows, and while his contract becomes less prohibitive as inflation and other revenue increases take hold, it could still help to move him now instead of waiting for him to contribute to a team that has a better chance of success. Kyle Seager is certainly worth holding on to, as his contract is entirely reasonable and he'll be able to contribute at a similar level from 2018 onward. Felix Hernandez, well...let's just say there's a less rational discussion to be had, but it's a conversation that has merit.
This team isn't winning a title in 2016. In all likelihood, it won't be any better in 2017 without crushing any hopes of contention afterward, as father time is undefeated. An eye towards the future could lead to better long-term success and an increased shot of winning a title in the next decade. While not a particularly enticing idea, a purposeful rebuild -- unlike the accidental one under the last regime -- is the right path at this fork in the road.