The deal: The Seattle Mariners acquire Dee Gordon and $1 million in international bonus slot money from the Miami Marlins for three minor leaguers -- RHP Nick Neidert, SS Chris Torres and RHP Robert Dugger.
Why it's a good deal for the Mariners: GM Jerry Dipoto said the Mariners still needed to acquire a center fielder and a starting pitcher. So why trade for Gordon? The Mariners plan to move the speedy second baseman to center field, a creative solution given the Mariners' problems at the position in recent seasons. The Mariners have had five different primary center fielders the past five seasons -- Jarrod Dyson in 2017 was the best of the lot, but he's a free agent and not a long-term answer. Gordon is signed for three more years at reasonable salaries of $10.8 million, $13.3 million and $13.8 million, with a $14 million option for 2021, so the Mariners could have their center fielder for the next four seasons.
Gordon won the National League batting title in 2015, when he was worth 4.9 WAR. He was suspended at the start of 2016 for PEDs and was worth just 0.8 WAR in 79 games, but rebounded for a 3.1 WAR season in 2017 after hitting .308/.341/.375 while swiping 60 bases. Major league second basemen and center fielders put up almost identical numbers in 2017 -- .754 OPS for second basemen, .764 for center fielders -- so Gordon's bat translates OK to center field, which means slightly below average given his lack of power.
The Mariners also to have other excellent defensive outfielders in Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia, so if Gordon turns in a positive on defense, they should have one of the better outfields in the league. Dipoto thinks Gordon will make the transition, telling reporters, "His first step, his acceleration, is about as good as anybody in the majors. We have him registered as one of the top three in major league baseball in those categories. And when you look at the two people in front of him, they are both center fielders."
Gordon also gives them even more speed at the top of a lineup that now looks something like this:
CF Dee Gordon
SS Jean Segura
2B Robinson Cano
DH Nelson Cruz
3B Kyle Seager
RF Mitch Haniger
1B Ryon Healy
C Mike Zunino
LF Ben Gamel / Guillermo Heredia
That's a pretty deep lineup, especially with a full season from Haniger and a bounce-back campaign from Seager, although it's still relying heavily on Cano and Cruz, two older players.
And that pitcher? The Mariners now have an additional $1 million to throw Shohei Ohtani's way.
Mariners Grade: B . But if that $1 million helps them land Ohtani, then make it an A .
Why it's a good deal for the Marlins: Well, Derek Jeter has shed the first chunk of the Marlins' payroll, which is the offseason plan (like it or not). The key to the deal for them is Neidert, Seattle's top pitching prospect (albeit in a very thin system) and one of the better sleeper prospects in the minors. He gets overlooked because of an average-ish fastball, but he commands it well and mixes in a good changeup and curveball. He had excellent results in the California League last season (2.76 ERA, 109/17 K/BB ratio in 104 ? innings) and reached Double-A at age 20. Torres is more of a flyer, a teenager with speed and the ability to stay at shortstop, while Dugger was kind of a pop-up prospect, an 18th-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2016 who put up solid numbers in A-ball.
While Neidert has potential, he's projected as more of a No. 3 starter. The Marlins don't have a deep system either, so Neidert becomes one of their top prospects as well. Still, for a trade that smells of a salary dump, he's a decent return and if Torres or Dugger turn into something, it could be a win down the road.
Marlins Grade: C .