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Grip on Sports: One Christmas present is opened by the Mariners already, will another be coming soon?

Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, left, speaks to members of the media before the start of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, July 28, 2016, in Miami. (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)
Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, left, speaks to members of the media before the start of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, July 28, 2016, in Miami. (Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s been a long time since the Mariners could be considered winners during the regular season. You know, when it really matters. But they seem heck-bent on winning this offseason. Read on.

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• We have Mariner fans in this family. One really big one. And when he was told the M’s traded for Dee Gordon yesterday, he was like a seven-year-old on Christmas morning.

Gordon has been an all-star more than once. He’s been a National League batting champion. He has speed, athleticism and fire. And he’s also been one of the best defensive second basemen in the NL for years.

But that spot is already taken in Seattle. There’s a guy name Robinson Cano that is not moving, at least not yet. So Dee Gordon won’t be playing second base in Seattle. He is, according to general manager Jerry Dipoto, penciled in to play centerfield, the second or third most important position defensively, especially in spacious Safeco Field.

It’s a position Gordon has never played before.

But that’s not the No. 1 reason the M’s traded three minor leaguers for the 29-year-old who is under contract for at least three more years.

Nope. He’s a hitter. Quite a good hitter. Quite a good leadoff hitter. And that’s where he will be. Atop a lineup that, on paper, may be the best in the American League. At least among them.

Gordon, Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager. That’s a potent top five. And the bottom four, right now, with Ryon Healy, Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger and Mike Zunino, isn’t awful.

The Gordon move seems like the type of deal the Mariners rarely make, picking up a veteran for minor league players, and taking on a hefty contract in the process.

(No, that’s not what they did with Chone Figgins. He was a free agent. So you darn voices in my head, stop bringing that disaster up.)

But there was another aspect of the deal that might be just as important. The Marlins added $1 million in international signing money, giving Seattle – today – more assets available in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes than anyone.

That seems to be Dipoto’s end game. Show Ohtani the Mariners are committed to winning now. That a small market team, the one closest to Japan, is capable of putting a team on the field that can compete with New York and Houston and Los Angeles.

It’s pretty smart strategy. A lot smarter than the Mariners have displayed in most of their past.

•••

WSU: We ranted in this space a couple days ago about the Pac-12 coaches and their choices for the all-conference teams. It’s an evergreen rant we could just cut-and-paste every year, just changing a name or two. It’s also one that oftentimes seems vindicated in the ensuing days. Like today, when we share Theo Lawson’s story on the Associated Press All-Pac-12 team. Or his piece on a couple of All-American teams. … There is more coverage of the awards in the Times.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the bowl season is just around the corner, with Washington earning the right to face another of the country’s best running backs. … Mike Riley is returning to Oregon State. As an assistant. … Arizona has lost one of the best offensive line coaches, a former WSU player, to OSU. … USC may be changing its assistant coaching roster soon. … And a soon-to-be-looking-for-work assistant will lead UCLA in its bowl game. … Utah always seems to have All-American kickers. … In basketball, Oregon hopes to bounce back after its loss. … Arizona State takes its ranking to Los Angeles.

Gonzaga: We saw the headline in the Omaha paper this week. Gonzaga and the Big East Conference mentioned in the same space again. Jim Meehan saw it too. And he has a really good story that delves into the thinking behind it.

EWU: It’s been a tough start to the basketball season for the Eagles. Their long road stretch continued last night in San Francisco, where the Dons held off Eastern, 81-71. … Around the Big Sky in football, Weber State will face its biggest challenge this weekend.

CCS: Though the Sasquatch women had to rebuild after winning the NWAC crown last season, they have some good pieces in place. Whitney Ogden has the story.

Preps: We linked Dave Nichols’ boys basketball preview story yesterday. Today, Dave has the girls’ preview, which leads with the Central Valley Bears. … There was a great interstate game last night in Post Falls and Dave was there. G-Prep handled the Trojans, 68-51. Dan Pelle was also there and has a lot of pictures. … We also have roundups from girls basketball, boys basketball and gymnastics.

Seahawks: There are a lot of story lines for Sunday night’s game, from Luke Joeckel facing his old team, to the Jags defense and its similarities to the Hawks from a few years ago, to the revitalized Seahawk run defense. … Russell Wilson is always a story. … Mike Davis would like to become a bigger one.

Mariners: The Gordon news hit from out of the blue. Sure, everyone knew the Marlins were selling, but why would the Mariners be in the discussion? They had a second baseman. Now we know Dipoto is always thinking outside the box.

Sounders: Seattle has the best thing a soccer team can have going into a one-game, winner-take-all playoff: an experienced goalie. … Hope Solo. God bless her.

NHL: We figured we had to put the Seattle news somewhere. The NHL is allowing it to begin the process for an expansion team. The $650 million process. Isn't that nice of the league?

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• Ohtani should decide where he will play in the next week. If it’s Seattle, the M’s should immediately be, well, the second choice in the American League West. The Astros are the world champions after all. Until later … 


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