Mariners may be in worse shape than they realize

The search for Jack Zduriencik's replacement in Seattle has already begun, and Mariners president Kevin Mather talked about the core of the team with reporters Friday, implying that the foundation of a winner is in place and that a series of apt moves by the next general manager could push the team into the playoffs next season.

Hopefully there will be a more circumspect and nuanced organizational perspective behind closed doors and in the interviews with the Mariners' GM candidates, because Seattle's truth could be more complicated.

They might be a lot further away from contending than anybody wearing a suit wants to admit publicly. The worst thing Mather and his bosses can do is set an expectation in the GM search that the next person in charge better believe the team can win right away because what the Mariners could wind up with is a yes-man GM, somebody who tells them what they want to hear, and not necessarily the best GM to lead the organization.

The honest assessment for Mather and the GM candidates is that there is a real possibility the theoretical Mariners core is a mirage.

It could be that Robinson Cano will bounce back from this, his worst season since 2008 and, at age 33, have a much better season in 2016. But the truth is it's also possible Cano's regression has begun, with eight years remaining on his contract. Felix Hernandez isn't a Cy Young Award candidate this year -- he has his highest ERA since 2007 -- and perhaps the quality of the team or the increasing hopelessness of the 2015 season wore on his performance. But it's also possible that after a decade in the big leagues and 34,005 pitches, he is not going to be as dominant as he has been in the past.