The acquisition of Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins during the winter of 2017 was always a peculiar one. Seattle needed a centerfielder and they needed more international bonus pool money to sweeten a deal in their attempts to sign Shohei Otani.
In the end, neither of those two things came to fruition. Gordon struggled in centerfield both mechanically and mentally, speaking rather candidly about his self-identification as a Gold Glove infielder. That’s not to say he didn’t give the outfield the old college try — he just had no interest in being out there.
Ohtani ended up signing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for a deal that had absolutely nothing to do with money whatsoever. Seattle was quite publicly all-in on signing Ohtani, trading away organizational pieces just for scraps of international bonus pool funds to increase their chances of landing the Japanese phenom.
The team ultimately ended up shipping out some promising young players in RHP Thyago Vieira, SS Christopher Torres, OF Brayan Hernandez, SP Paul Fry, OF Rayder Ascanio, as well as their best starting pitching prospect at the time, Nick Neidert. Most of these moves were all in an attempt to acquire international funds.
That’s not to say these players will end up being ‘guys’ in the bigs, but they’re young, controllable pieces that could have been utilized in other ways.
It’s not a stretch to say losing out on the Ohtani sweepstakes was a franchise-altering defeat for Seattle, one that Gordon was second-handedly a part of.
After a Robinson Cano PED suspension, Gordon was shifted back to his natural position at 2B. In the end, Seattle was left with roughly $35 million locked up at second base in 2018, and a glut of international bonus pool funds they couldn’t spend - at least not reasonably.
Fast-forward to 2019 and Cano is gone and Gordon will almost assuredly follow as the team continues their teardown in hopes of competing in 2021 and beyond.
Gordon is set to earn $13 million in 2019 and $13.5 million is 2020. He also has a $1 million buyout for 2021. Whomever acquires the 9-year veteran will potentially be on the hook for $6 million for the second half of this season and the $14.5 million remaining from here on out.
That’s a lot of money for a guy who has compiled just 0.4 WAR over the last two seasons with 700+ at-bats.
But that’s not to say Gordon shouldn’t be garnering interest.
Speedsters with positional versatility (admittedly a stretch) are sought after in the National League. Gordon broke into the big leagues with the Dodgers in 2011 and reuniting him with his former team makes a lot of sense.
Enrique “Kike” Hernandez has received the majority of playing time at second base for the Dodgers, starting 55 games in 2019. Having only hit .215 on the year, there’s room for improvement there. Max Muncy has 32 starts at second base, all while he brings a much bigger offensive profile, he lacks the range of a steady middle infielder, having compiled a -0.3 UZR in 2019 at the position.
Gordon would be a nice addition to a team looking for a steady presence at the top or bottom of their lineup. He’s a solid platoon bench bat/pinch runner at the very least.
So what would a deal look like? The Dodgers have roughly $23 million to play with before exceeding the luxury tax, so money shouldn’t be an issue. Let’s explore three scenarios.
Option 1: Seattle sends Gordon to the Dodgers, Los Angeles eats the contract.
This is probably the deal Seattle is going to look to avoid at all costs. Sending Gordon to the Dodgers and allowing them to eat the remainder of the $20 million owed would net a return of almost nothing. Maybe one trip around the Santa Monica Ferris Wheel, free of charge.
Mariners Acquire: LHP Julian Smith
Smith was the Dodgers 15th round pick in the 2018 draft. He’s 22 years old and is currently middling in the Arizona League with an ERA over 10.
Smith pitches with a pretty straight fastball with some late rising life that touches as high as 94 mph. He can compliment it with a 12-6 bender in the 79-80 mph range and a low-80s changeup that is still a work in progress. He has a lanky, projectable frame, and his delivery is fluid and repeatable.
Kyle Glaser of Baseball America believes Smith to be a “super sleeper” in the Dodgers organization with a chance to develop into a left-handed starting pitching prospect “sooner rather than later.”
Seattle has almost nothing in terms of left-handed starting pitching prospect in its farm system, so Smith would be a welcomed addition.
At 22 years old, Smith is an elder of the Arizona League, but may be a shade more than a lottery ticket with his projectable build and repertoire.
Option 2: Seattle sends Gordon to the Dodgers along with $10 million
In all actuality, this is probably the most likely outcome. It’s unlikely Dee Gordon is the Dodgers only midseason acquisition, so they’ll need room under the luxury tax threshold to add more pieces. Couple this with Jerry Dipoto’s desire to acquire a reasonable prospect in return and you have a match that makes sense.
Mariners Acquire: RHP Andre Scrubb
Scrubb, an 8th round pick of the Dodgers in 2016, is a big-bodied reliever that throws some gas. Armed with a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a wipeout breaking ball, Scrubb is a pretty good bet to contribute at the major league level in 2020. He’s currently striking out more than a batter per inning at AA Tusla and should get the bump to AAA here soon. He’s currently running a 2.31 ERA and 1.179 WHIP.
Scrubb would fit well into future plans for the Mariners as the bullpen is an obvious position of need moving forward. With guys like Sam Delaplane, Art Warren, Wyatt Mills and others working their way through the system, Scrubb would represent another high-floor arm to add to that promising cavalcade.
Option 3: Seattle sends Gordon and the remainder of his contract to LA
Depending on who Los Angeles targets this midseason, there’s always a chance they’ll need more money to play with. Say, for example, the Dodgers wanted to make a run at Zack Greinke this year. Being he’s still owed roughly $16 million for the remainder of 2019, the Dodgers will need all the money they can get to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
Mariners Acquire: IF Devin Mann
At first glance, Mann might not be the prospect you’d expect in return for eating $20 million. He’s not on any Top 30 lists, and he’s 22 years old playing at High-A Rancho Cucamonga. For now...
Mann is absolutely tearing the ever-living tar off the ball this season.
In 74 games, Mann is slashing .284/.351/.532 with 17 homeruns. He’s running a 9.0 BB%, as well as just a 22.0 K%. He’s a Jerry Dipoto type of guy right now.
Mann has split time between 2B and 3B for the Dodgers A+ affiliate this year, where his defense has been a work in progress. Having only hit 15 homeruns in nearly 600 at-bats at the University of Louisville, it’s clear Mann is starting to tap into his 6-foot-3 frame, producing much louder at-bats.
Mann is an average runner with an average arm, so it remains to be seen if he’d be able to stick at the hot corner. He’s more than likely destined to be a bat-first second baseman, or left fielder down the line.
Dipoto is known for buying high on unheralded guys that are just starting to figure it out.
See: Mitch Haniger, Jake Fraley, Dom Thompson-Williams, Omar Narvaez, Shed Long, etc, etc...
Devin Mann could be the next in line.
However things shake out in a Dee Gordon deal, it’s important to remember a few things as fans.
- Seattle has almost zero leverage here as they’re the ones publicly looking to offload capital.
- That so-called capital is underproducing, especially considering the money attached.
- Seattle has Shed Long waiting in the wings and they’ve made it publicly clear he’s next in line.
- Suitors will almost certainly make the case they’re simply looking to acquire a pinch-runner, nothing more.
Dee Gordon is a talented player who hasn’t had it easy in Seattle. For his sake, hopefully he lands with the Dodgers and has a very real shot and getting a ring in 2019.