In last week’s Dee Gordon Trade, the Mariners traded three prospects; Robert Dugger, Nick Neidert, and Christopher Torres to the Marlins in exchange for Dee Gordon and one million dollars in international pool money. It was clear at the time that Mariner’s GM Jerry Dipoto made the trade primarily for the international pool money to increase the team’s chances of signing Japanese two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, and that he was able to get Dee Gordon was a bonus. At the time, the moved seemed to be a good one as the Mariners were among seven finalists to land Ohtani, and it seemed that an extra million dollars would be a large incentive for the player. However, now that Ohtani has chosen to sign with the Angels, its time to analyze this trade based on the players involved, without the potential of adding Shohei Ohtani to the mix. Did the Mariners still win in this trade?
Dee Gordon is Worth a Lot More Than His Contract
Clearly, the Marlins were looking for salary relief in trading Gordon as the new owners begin to reconstruct the roster. However, it is important for owners overseeing a rebuild to get maximal value for the players they are dealing in order to eventually get out of the rebuild stage. In this case, the Marlins were offering an all-star second baseman, who consistently steals 60+ bases and hits over .300 with 4 years of control at just over $50M in salary heading his way. In order to evaluate this trade, it is important to evaluate the key player (Dee Gordon) both in talent and monetary value.
A 50 million dollar contract is undoubtedly a lot of money. A team beginning a rebuild certainly has no room for a contract that size, but for a competitor it’s an absolute steal due tothe number off wins he provides for a team above a replacement level player (WAR). Dee Gordon’s WAR in 2017 was 3.1, meaning that having Dee Gordon play on your team brought in a little over three extra wins than your team would have had with another replacement level second baseman. His career WAR is 10.0, which means that throughout his career he’s generated 10 wins for his team that they otherwise would not have had.
Knowing how many wins Dee Gordon is worth is very helpful in determining his contract value. A lot of work has been done to find the exact monetary value of a win, and over the years baseball analysts have actually worked their way down to a close range between 5 and 8 million dollars per win. If we split the middle of that range and value a win at around 6.5 million dollars, we can easily use Dee Gordon’s WAR to guess his value for the remainder of his contract. Using a contract estimator tool from Fangraphs.com, which factors a players WAR from last season, his career WAR, his age, and expected inflation rate over the life span of a contract to find the exact contract value of a player. Valuing a win at 6.5 million dollars, Dee Gordon’s contract should be worth 99.7 million dollars over five years, significantly higher than his current contract of 50 million dollars. This means that the team that fields Dee Gordon is actually getting over 49 million dollars worth of surplus value in production at a modest estimate.
So even though the Mariners made the trade in order to better equip themselves to sign Ohtani, they also got a solid hitter who is a threat on the basepaths and performs at about twice his contract value. That’s a pretty good get for Dipoto even if putting him in center diminishes some of his value. It’s clear that the Mariners got a quality player in this trade, one that outperforms even his significant contract. (Editor’s note: Sean did not make Isaac write these nice words about Dee Gordon. Isaac may not even be aware of Sean’s Dee Gordon love).
The Marlins’ New Prospects
Robert Dugger, 22 RHP
Dugger started in 18 games in single A during 2017. He finished with a record of 6-6 with a 2.75 ERA. While still relatively low in the minor leagues, Dugger sported a solid WHIP in 2017 of 1.205 (a WHIP below 1.30 is considered above average. Below 1.00 is elite). with a rate of 2.5 walks/9 innings, and strikeout rate of 8.8/9 innings. These numbers indicate the potential to someday be a strong middle to back end of the rotation starter for Miami, or someone who could provide steady middle relief with his high strikeout rate.
Nick Neidert, 21 RHP
Neidert finished 2017 in AA after starting the year in class A. The right-hander combined to finish with an 11-6 record with a 3.45 ERA over 25 starts and 127 innings. Neidert struck out 8.6 batters per 9 innings while walking just 1.6 per 9. Combined with his 1.175 WHIP, Neidert appears to be another candidate for a middle of the rotation starter or bullpen piece, although he may be closer to big league ready than Dugger.
Christopher Torres, 19 INF
The young switch-hitting middle infielder played a shortened season in class A through 2017, playing in 57 games while compiling just over 200 at bats. Torres hit just .238 last year, with an OPS of .742. However, with 14 stolen bases this year and a decent .384 slugging percentage (almost exactly Carlos Beltran’s slugging percentage last year), there is hope that Torres could progress into a solid speed and power threat if he can improve his contact. Defensively, however, Torres is far from Major League ready. The infielder committed 20 errors last season while playing primarily second base and shortstop. If Torres is going to make an impact on the Marlins’ major league roster someday he will need to show large improvements in his ability to make contact and on his defense.
On the surface, it appears that Seattle got the better end of this trade. Gordon has been a 10 WAR player over his career, and although his 50 million dollar contract is expensive, he figures to be a bargain. On the other hand, the Mariners will be asking Gordon to move to center field as Robinson Cano is firmly entrenched at second base. Gordon’s WAR will likely go down, as the gold glove winning second baseman will certainly lose some defensive value as he learns a new position.
From the Marlins’ perspective, this trade was clearly about shedding salary. Dee Gordon’s contract surplus value is only useful if you plan on contending within the timeframe that he’s valuable, which Miami certainly is not for the next few years. The three prospects they got in exchange for Gordon have some upside, but seem like a long shot to provide the same long-term production that Dee Gordon will in Seattle. That advanced calculus makes this trade a win for Seattle as they seek to put together a few more runs at breaking their playoff drought while Cano, Seager, and Cruz are still producing at an elite level.
So while Seattle fans are no doubt disappointed in Ohtani’s decision to sign with the Angels, they should still view this trade positively. Dee Gordon provides dynamic, game-changing, speed on the base paths. It will be interesting to see what the heart of the Mariners’ batting order will be able to do with a hitter and runner like Gordon batting ahead of them.