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Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Dee Gordon Off the Market, Traded to Seattle

Goddamn, Jerry Dipoto loves a trade. And it seems that the Mariners’ freewheelin’ GM has made himself another one, moving to acquire one of the players who Jays fans have most been talking about over the last several months, Dee Gordon.

Going the other way are maybe not the most exciting prospects in the game, though one, Nick Neidert, is a right-hander drafted 60th overall in 2015, and ranked second for the Mariners per MLB Pipeline. (Granted Chris Crawford calls him “a nice get” despite the fact that he’s “not gonna miss a ton of bats,” because of his “high floor because of his ability to command the arsenal” and that he “can make hitters look silly with the change.”

The deal is quite a bit more interesting than that, though. For one, Dipoto has already told reporters that the plan is for Gordon to play in centre field. That’s something he’s barely done before, though he obviously has the speed to do so — and for Seattle’s sake he’d better, because with Robinson Cano set at second base, it will be difficult to move Gordon elsewhere if he doesn’t take in centre. (Then again, Dipoto could just deal him again in that case.)

For two, there’s this:

It was pretty much a given that any team adding Gordon would be taking on some or all of the money he’s still owed, but by taking the international bonus pool money the Dipoto seems to be gambling on using that as a potential difference-maker in landing Shohei Otani — a player who will provide so much surplus value to his club that assuming the entirety of Gordon’s deal (as opposed to a slightly smaller parcel) is a small price to pay.

But it’s not like Gordon’s deal is bad. He’ll make $10.5 million in 2018, $13 million in 2019, $13.5 million in 2020, and has a $14 million option ($1 million buyout) for 2021 — an option that will vest with 600 plate appearances in 2020, or 1,200 combined between 2019 and 2020.

For a 29-year-old who has produced a WAR of 3.3, 4.8, 1.0, and 3.3 over the last four years, that’s a very reasonable hit. But… uh… hitting is kinda the thing. Gordon hasn’t done it — at least not outside of 2015, where he produced a 116 wRC+, which was rendered somewhat suspect by his PED suspension at the start of the following year. In 2017 his 92 wRC+ was more than good enough for a player who provides the kind of speed and defence that Gordon does, and his .341 OBP looks more than good enough. But for his career his OBP is just .329, thanks mostly to his 4.5% walk rate. All of his value is coming from his legs, and a whole lot of it can be undone by batted ball luck, as his .319 BABIP 2016 season (his career mark is .345) produced a slash line of just .268/.305/.335.

Still, there’s a reason Jays fans — and perhaps the team itself — were very interested in Gordon. Even after the addition of Aledmys Diaz, I think the Jays certainly should have still had interest in a lefty hitter (which Gordon is) who could factor into both the club’s infield and outfield mix.

So why is it the Mariners and not the Blue Jays who’ve made this addition?

Well, for one, with Kevin Pillar in centre, the Jays would be more likely to use Gordon in a corner, where they wouldn’t really be maximizing his biggest asset.

There is also the fact that Gordon’s not an adequate backup at shortstop, so if he’d been acquired it would have been as an OF/2B, making the newly added Aledmys Diaz the club’s cover for Troy Tulowitzki — something Ross Atkins seemed to be leaning against, according to an excellent piece this week from John Lott of the Athletic. “We actually feel as though that if we were to have him stay at second base, he would be a better overall defender, if he were to play one position,” Atkins said of Diaz. Though the GM added that he expected the club to stay active on the infield market.

The other issue, I’d assume, is resources. Granted, the Jays won’t be able to do much this winter if they can’t find a way to make a $10.5 million salary work in order to add a guy who will play close to everyday, but if the fit wasn’t going to be perfect — and it seems like he wasn’t — to do that and move prospects in the process probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Especially with the Mariners being willing to push harder with their offer because of the international bonus money they so coveted.

I mean, as the great Jonah Birenbaum points out, “he’s younger and faster, sure, but Dee Gordon also costs a lot more than Jarrod Dyson, who’s been just as valuable over the past five seasons and is, you know, actually an outfielder.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think Dyson alone solves the Jays problems either. I think that right now they still need a proper right fielder, a starting pitcher, a backup catcher, and then that magical IF/OF that Diaz is and Gordon might a have been. You could figure out a way to make it work with Dyson, but really I don’t think he is any of those things.

Still, damn, a lefty-hitting table-setting top-of-the-lineup bat sure would look pretty nice, even if there’s a chance the OBP turns scary. And that there’s one of those off the market probably isn’t a great thing for the Jays — except in the fact that this finally might start to get the market moving. LET’S DO THIS ALREADY!

    • GrumblePup

      Out of curiosity, what do you expect to get from a Pillar trade? You trade Pillar, and then all of a sudden you need 3 outfielders, not 2.
      So in the trade, you’d better be getting back another outfielder, or they need to sign a free agent CF.
      That brings us right back to where we started, but with less money left over to fill in the holes that are already there.
      I’m so glad you’re not running this team.

      • ErnieWhitt

        Not saying they would do this, but they could easily trade Pillar for non-outfield help if they were to make a corresponding move on the free agent market.. i.e. Trade Pillar for a #5 starter, sign Jorrod Dyson or Austin Jackson – both of whom were roughly equal in value to Pillar last season. I don’t see how they would have less money, since they would no longer need to sign a pitcher.

      • GrumblePup

        I just don’t think you’re going to get an everyday starter, or the versatile positional player or anything more than a depth starting pitcher for pillar.

        So if you’re spending free agent dollars to full a hole that was previously filled with Pillar, but now isn’t because you traded him, you will have less money to use to fill any other gaps.

        If you want to get a decent return for Pillar to fill a hole in the lineup, you’ll have to throw in some prospects, which will make other transactions harder.

        My point is, the Jays have a CF that works. Why get rid of him when it is a better use of resources to allocate the dollars (or prospects) to filling a place of genuine need.

        If you’re ok with using minor league players in the outfield because it’s alright to have a struggling bat in the 9 hole… well that’s already Pillar.

        Trading him now makes no sense. If one of the minor leaguers plays his way onto the team, sure trade Pillar. But right now you’re just trading him for the sake of trading him and that’s dumb.

    • Just Jeff

      I’ve warmed up to this line of thought and here’s why, The Jays have multiple outfielders on the verge of the majors (Hernandez, Pompey, Alford and Smith Jr.). IF you can land someone like Cain and move Pillar in this same hypothetical scenario, does that make it easier to carry one of those 4 outfielders on the verge of the majors as one of your 3 starting outfielders? Removing Pillar takes a weak bat out of the lineup so you can probably live with a young guy at the bottom of the order struggling. A guy like Cain would beef up the top of the order, and you can still have you Zeke/Pearce platoon.

      • TGreg

        I’m glad that Gordon & his 3 years didn’t land here. Personally I’m okay with giving Alford & Hernandez CF & RF, & bat them 8 & 9. Get a LF & make Pillar the 4th OF/late inning defensive replacement. Invest big in a SP.

  • Cecilrosa

    Dyson would be a huge improvement over Carrera, if they could get a right fielder too. I’m starting to think we’ll end up with Carlos Gonzalez on a 1 year deal to rebuild his value which might not be the worst thing in the world.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    Why are the Mariners and not the Jays making this (alleged) acquisition? Here’s why:

    Miami dealt $1 million in international signing money to the M’s, so that the M’s can pursue Ohtani. The price for that signing money was three prospects and getting Dee Gordon’s $40 million salary dumped on them.

  • Regulator Johnson

    I think the argument that Dyson is equal in value to Gordon ignores the fact that Gordon was suspended for 100 games. He is unequivocally the better player. Sad we missed him.

    • Steve-O

      An OF of Carrera/Pearce, Pillar, and Kris Davis, is something I can most definitely live with. Let’s do this, Atkins! (Also upgrade the Carrera/Pearce situation, but first things first, get Davis.)