Tyler Chatwood joining the Chicago Cubs marked the first major signing of MLB free agency, and the Seattle Mariners trading for Dee Gordon marked the first bad trade of the offseason. The Miami Marlins have redefined the term "fleecing" after convincing Seattle to take on the speedy infielder and the entirety of what remains on his contract.
In an added twist, Jim Bowden of SiriusXM reported the Mariners' plan was to move Gordon, who has played shortstop or second base for his whole career, to center field and GM Jerry Dipoto confirmed that was indeed the plan to several reporters including Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times. There's no way to sugarcoat this, folks. Seattle made a terrible trade.
The trade itself
The trade was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, with Bowden and FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman covering who the Mariners sent to Miami in return. Those players are three prospects: right-hander Robert Dugger, switch-hitting infielder Christopher Torres, and righty Nick Neidert. Dugger spent last season in two levels of A-ball, while the 19-year-old Torres spent the year at Low-A.
The real star of the deal is Neidert, who Seattle made a second-round pick in 2015. The 21-year-old went 11-6 last year and posted a 3.45 ERA and 1.17 WHIP across High-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas, striking out 122 batters in 127.2 innings in 25 starts. He isn't ready for the majors just yet, but Neidert could definitely be a star in the Marlins' new-look rotation under new owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.
In Gordon, Seattle gets an absolute speedster who hit .308 in 2017 and led the majors with 60 steals. Gordon also turns 30 in April and has led all of baseball in stolen bases three times across stints not only with the Marlins but also the Los Angeles Dodgers. The man also took home a Gold Glove as a second baseman in 2015, so it looks like the Mariners made a great trade, right?
Wrong! Seattle is set at second base with veteran Robinson Cano and the six years, $144m he has remaining on his contract, and shortstop is also out of the picture with the presence of Jean Segura and the five-year, $70m extension he signed last June. The plan is instead to put Gordon in center field and though he arguably has the speed and defensive skills (6.4 Ultimate Zone Rating in 2017) to tackle a new position, that's still a tall order. Gordon has only played shortstop and second base on the MLB level and center field is hard, even if a popular consensus is that shortstops' athleticism allows them to play practically any position.
Not only that, but Seattle agreed to take on the three years and $37m remaining on Gordon's contract, plus his $14m vesting option for 2021. Throw in that the team's outfield is fairly set with Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, and Mitch Haniger. Heredia is the odd man out in that group so unless Dipoto plans on trading him too, then he will be relegated to fourth outfielder duties.
The Ohtani agenda
Another reason Seattle could have made this trade would be to further entice Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani not only by upgrading the roster, but also acquiring more money to offer him. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported the Mariners also received $1m in international bonus pool money from Miami as part of the trade, giving the team just over $3.5m to offer Ohtani as a signing bonus.
Adding Ohtani would further complicate the outfield picture, especially since he wants to hit on days he doesn't pitch, and Dipoto saying last month that regular DH Nelson Cruz could play some outfield to accommodate Ohtani only makes a bigger mess. If Ohtani decides not to sign with Seattle, then perhaps making these deals for extra international bonus pool money was all for naught.
When the story of this trade first broke, it looked like Seattle made the deal intending to flip Gordon to another team, perhaps as a multi-team deal involving his now former teammate Giancarlo Stanton. It now looks as though he will remain in the Emerald City and suit up in a Mariners uniform in 2018, all the while preparing to learn a position he has never once played in his professional career.
The Marlins, meanwhile, can breathe a little easier after unloading a good chunk of their payroll for a trio of prospects, one of which could wind up being a strong front-end starter in Neidert. There's no other way to put it. Miami made out like bandits while Seattle, despite Gordon's overall talent, got the short end of the stick.