Dee Gordon Is a Great Addition for the Top of the Seattle Mariners' Lineup
That name has garnered all the press early on this offseason, but Miami has also obviously engaged in trade conversations with other players. One of those conversations came to fruition on Thursday as the team dealt second baseman Dee Gordon and international slot money to the Seattle Mariners for a handful of prospects.
The M's are a surprising destination for Gordon, who until now, had played second base. He's regarded as one of the better defenders at the position, as the 2015 Gold Glove winner was rated by FanGraphs as baseball's best defensive second baseman last year. However, Seattle already has Robinson Cano manning the keystone, and he's making $24 million per year through 2023. He's not going anywhere.
So, general manager Jerry DiPoto and his front office have decided they want Gordon to fill the team's gaping hole in center field, which was occupied by Jarrod Dyson for much of the 2017 season.
No one is sure how the move is going to work out defensively, but acquiring a player with Gordon's offensive skill set should help improve the top of the Mariners' order. Following a disastrous 2016 campaign that involved an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, he had a nice bounce-back season in South Beach. The below table shows how his fWAR, triple slash, runs scored, stolen bases, walk rate (BB%), and strikeout rate (K%) compare over each of the last four seasons.
The 2015 campaign remains his best as a big leaguer, but last year wasn't too shabby -- he scored a career-high 114 runs while collecting 60 stolen bases.
He doesn't walk as much as you would like for a leadoff hitter, but his ability to hit for a high average enables him to get on base at a healthy clip. And when he does get on, a lot of those singles turn into doubles thanks to his outstanding speed. It is worth noting, though, that he does create some outs on the bases, as he led the league in 2017 by getting caught stealing 16 times.
But Gordon's game is speed. It's part of what makes him so valuable. Even if the Mariners don't land Shohei Ohtani, this acquisition makes the lineup more potent. Here is what their 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like, per Roster Resource.
The Mariners were a middle-of-the-pack offense last year, ranking 15th in runs scored and 17th in home runs. Of course, Safeco Field is one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball, ranked 23rd in runs per game last year. The addition of Gordon doesn't add a run producer, but does give the team a run creator, which would allow the likes of Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to pad their RBI totals.
Gordon does have his drawbacks, though -- he doesn't walk much and makes a lot of outs. There is the PED suspension two years ago, and that disastrous 2016 campaign is not too far in the rearview mirror. He also provides no power in an era when everyone is, which decreases his value somewhat.
Despite all that, his athleticism is something Seattle desperately needed at the top of their lineup. If he can do enough on the run prevention side at a new position, he could certainly help the Mariners finally get over the hump and reach the playoffs for the first time in 2001, which would break baseball's longest postseason drought.