The Seattle Mariners enter the 2010-2011 Major League Baseball offseason in dire need of some runs. The team did not merely take up the rear in American League run scoring: They finished with 100 fewer runs than the Baltimore Orioles, who finished second-to-last. The Mariners pitching staff had a 3.95 ERA, good for the fifth-best in the AL, but because of the dreadful, anemic, monumentally inept offense they put on the field, Seattle won just 61 games.

Given that premise, there is a surprising degree of very genuine optimism within the Mariners front office. Team chairman Howard Lincoln and general manager Jack Zduriencik sent an open letter to Mariners’ fans this week, urging them to be patient and promising great things ahead.

As the team’s decision-makers note in the letter, the Mariners system is stocked with quality hitting prospects. I have seen, with my own eyes, the tremendous potential of Carlos Triunfel, the team’s enigmatic but very young and gifted shortstop. Other top-tier bats on the cusp of big-league readiness include Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Greg Halman.

If the Mariners are serious about their commitment to long-term rebuilding, then, we ought not to see a hyper-aggressive effort to fill a pathetic lineup with second-rate stop-gaps in 2011. There is clearly a better approach to be had in effecting the sea change this squad of seafarers so badly needs. Here are 10 players the team should target this winter, in order to make a real run at the postseason in 2012 and beyond.

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