As the holy scriptures say, shooters shoot. While at times he resembles me during the last five seconds of pop-a-shot at the local arcade, Jerry Dipoto’s time as General Manager of the Seattle Mariners has had one constant: A total lack of fear.
Here’s the trade, as it was announced: The Mariners are (from what I have heard) trading Nick Niedert, one of the very few arms in the minor leagues with anything remotely resembling major league potential, and two other as of yet unnamed minor leaguers for Marlins 2B Dee Gordon.
Now, wait. Second baseman Dee Gordon?!? The Mariners have a second baseman. He’s pretty good! Well, yeah, this is pretty crazy. Dee Gordon has appeared in 685 games in the field in his major league career. Every single one of them has been at 2B or SS. But from what I’ve been told the Mariners are going to try and convert him to centerfield. It’s a huge risk, and its outcome is impossible to predict.
I’m not going to try and forecast Gordon’s performance as a centerfielder here. Position changes, particularly mid-career are fraught with peril and unknowns. For now I’ll simply point out that one of the most important aspects of good outfield play is foot speed, and only three players in baseball ranked higher than Dee Gordon in raw foot speed last year. Not coincidentally, all three derive a large portion of their value from excellent outfield defense. Dee Gordon is one of the fastest baseball players alive and, while a huge unknown, the raw ingredients for a quality major league centerfielder should be there. Hopefully he’s aware of the situation, and amenable to it, because with Robinson Cano and Jean Segura locking down 2B/SS for the ~$38 million remaining on Gordon’s contract through 2020, there’s nowhere in this infield to put him.
It’s a risk, a big risk, but one with big upside both in on field performance, and potential savings. The Mariners had no realistic replacement for Jarrod Dyson coming into 2018. Without him the last two months of 2017 saw the outfield, as a whole, collapse. Mitch Haniger is an exciting player, who can play center in a pinch, but he should never be an everyday player there. Gordon’s speed allows for the possibility of not only another year with a plus glove in center, but without the financial outlay needed for a premium FA a la Lorenzo Cain. This, theoretically, allows the team the financial flexibility to spend liberally to fill other needs like STARTING PITCHING GET STARTING PITCHING JERRY DO IT.
The second, and potentially even more consequential portion of this trade is the addition of still more international slot money to dump on top of the head of Shohei Ohtani. Combined with the $1 million received from the Twins last night, in exchange for C David Banuelos, the Mariners have almost doubled the amount of money they can pay Ohtani. As of this second, that amount (roughly $3.6 million) is more than any other team.
No one, and I mean no one seems to have any idea what Ohtani is thinking, or what his priorities are. While an optimistic reading of this trade would be that Ohtani had agreed to come to Seattle pending them freeing up enough money to satisfy him, I’ve heard from sources that confirm something like that, and sources that claim that’s not the case. Like I said, no one knows a thing with certainty here.
However, this deal wouldn’t be made if the Mariners didn’t feel they were at least one of the “finalists of the finalists”. From, again, SOURCE, the Mariners left their meeting with Ohtani feeling confident in their ability to sway him. If an extra $1 million up front was what was needed to cement the agreement, and Ohtani does indeed come to Seattle, then this trade is a no questions asked win of the highest order for the franchise.
Should they eventually miss out, it’s going to suck. However, Dee Gordon successfully converting into a centerfielder should hypothetically allow the Mariners the flexibility to trade for as much talent as they gave up to acquire him, if It All Goes Wrong.
The farm is further decimated, but it was already decimated. While continuing to gut your future for a few seasons of Dee Gordon is a questionable move, Shohei Ohtani may have more WAR in his rookie year than every member of the Mariners farm does for their career. Combined. He is the rare commodity worth the risk, and despite my long held preference for a total rebuild, this is a path I can get behind. Hall of Fame talent is Hall of Fame talent.
It was clear before, but this makes it even more so: The Seattle Mariners are going for it in 2018. The addition of Dee Gordon and (cross fingers) Shohei Ohtani changes the face of the franchise moving forward. Additionally, the team should still theoretically have the payroll space to add another starting pitcher. It allows us to dream, and that is all we’ve ever really wanted.