Why the Mariners Acquiring Dee Gordon was a Bad Trade and Mistake
On December 7, 2017, Jerry Dipoto made a trade to acquire speedy second baseman Dee Gordon from the Marlins in exchange for a trio of prospects headlined by Nick Neidert. Gordon had a very good year in 2016, and then he joined a roster that won 78 games in 2017 and was headlined by stars like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and an aging Felix Hernandez. He was added to help the Mariners break through and make it to the playoffs, but he fell far short of expectations.
In 2016, Gordon had a 3.6 WAR season where he had 60 steals and hit for a .308 average, and had 7 Defensive Runs Saved playing second base. He was one of the best second basemen in the game because of his batting average and speed. However the Mariners unloaded $240 million on Robbie Cano, so he wasn’t going to play second base. The M’s announced that they would play Gordon in center field for the first time in his career.
The Mariners and many people in the baseball industry thought that his speed and small stature would translate well to center field, but they were far from correct. He would be worth -7 DRS in 2018 and -3 Outs Above Average in center field. He was plainly awful in center field, and it significantly hindered the Mariners on defense. He also struggled offensively and let the M’s down with his bat as well.
Offensively in 2018, Gordon slashed .268/.288/.349 with only 30 steals and had a 75 wRC+. These numbers were significantly worse than his 2017 stats with the Marlins. He was a part of the team that won 89 games in 2018 and missed out on the playoffs. The M’s were 24 games over .500 at 56-32. The Oakland A’s were at 48-39 at the same point, but the Mariners collapsed in the second half and the A’s got better and went on to blow by them in the AL Wild Card race.
In the second half of 2018, Gordon also slumped. He only hit .241/.265/.354 with 8 stolen bases and got caught stealing 6 times. He was a key contributor to the second-half demise of the Mariners who went 36-42 from July through September. He was brought in to be an All-Star level player for the Mariners, but he was far from it, and he underperformed when the team needed him most.
The package traded for Dee Gordon hurt a little too.
The Mariners traded right-handed pitcher Nick Neidert who was the #3 ranked prospect in the organization, low minors shortstop Christopher Torres, and Robbert Dugger, another right-hander. The package was deemed to be pretty fair at the time, and it is certainly not one of the worst trades Dipoto has made. Torres has done nothing and has not played above A ball. Dugger made the big leagues but did not perform and was eventually claimed by the Mariners off waivers in 2020.
Neidert was the prize of the deal, and he would certainly be good to have now. He made his big league debut in 2020, pitching 8.1 innings. He split last year between AAA and the big leagues and showed some promise but still has work to go as a 25-year-old. You’d have to throw him in with Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn at this point in time as competition for the #5 starter role today for the M’s.
Having 6 years of Neidert would certainly be good for the Mariners, but the players traded for Gordon would not have too much of an impact on the future of the M’s. Dipoto did not give up too much for Gordon, but Neidert would be worth having in 2022 and beyond. Gordon had a better year in 2019, but the Mariners were in a rebuilding mode then and then he fell off completely in 2020 and hasn’t played in the big leagues since.
All in all, Dee Gordon was a bad addition by Jerry Dipoto, and they should not have tried to make him a center fielder. He was one of the worst defensive center fielders M’s fans have seen, and he should have not been moved there. Nick Neidert would also be good to have right now for Dipoto, but he isn’t a star. Dee Gordon was one of the most disappointing players acquired by Dipoto, and one of the most overrated players he has traded for during his tenure.