With an eye on 2018 and the tightly-contested pursuit of Japanese righthander Shohei Ohtani, the Mariners acquired Dee Gordon and $1 million in international bonus pool space from the Marlins Thursday afternoon in exchange for a trio of minor league prospects. With the trade, the Mariners now have $3,557,500 in international bonus pool money, which pushes them ahead of the Rangers ($3,535,000) for the most international bonus pool money in the Ohtani sweepstakes.
The Mariners, who already have eight-time all-star Robinson Cano manning second base, are moving Gordon to center field, where he’ll slide into an everyday role. Gordon hit .308/.341/.375 in 158 games for the Marlins in 2017, although he has never played the outfield in the major leagues. His path from infield to the outfield is reminiscent of the move Billy Hamilton made a few years ago, although in Hamilton’s case he had one year to adjust to center field in the minors.
For the Marlins, the trade represents a chance to add three intriguing prospects to a farm system that is widely considered among the bottom-five in baseball, as well as a chance to rid themselves of the $38 million that was left on Gordon’s over the next three years. The Mariners have reportedly agreed to assume all of the money remaining on Gordon’s contract.
Nick Neidert, RHP (Double-A Arkansas)
The Mariners’ second-round pick in 2015, Neidert is a touch-and-feel righthander who sits 90-93 mph with his fastball. Neidert’s delivery does posses some deception and his fastball has a late rise through the zone, helping the pitch play up more than the modest velocity may suggest. The 2017 California League pitcher of the year, Neidert also has a plus changeup and above-average slider, giving him a true three-pitch arsenal that projects well as either a mid or back-end-of-the-rotation starter. Neidert has excellent command, which he showed by walking just 22 batters in more than 127 innings in 2017. Neidert reached Double-A during the latter part of his last season with the Mariners but produced modest results, so there is a good chance he will begin 2018 at that same level with the Marlins.
Christopher Torres, SS (Short-season Everett)
Torres signed with the Mariners for $375,000 in the summer of 2014 as a 17-year old and then made his U.S. debut in the Rookie-level Arizona league in 2016. Coming out of the Dominican Republic with the reputation of a defense-first shortstop, Torres has lived up to that billing throughout his young career. Torres shows smooth actions at shortstop, where he is a gifted athlete with a plus arm. The biggest question remaining for Torres, who is a career .248/.358/.384 hitter, is the development of his bat. His ability to eventually become an everyday shortstop rests almost entirely on the advancement of his hitting ability, which did show signs of improvement in 2017. Torres is an above-average runner and did show increased power this past season, when he hit six home runs in 48 games in the Northwest League.
Robert Dugger, RHP (High Class A Modesto)
Originally drafted as a righthanded reliever out of Texas Tech in the 18th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Dugger pitched more as a starter in his first full season of pro ball in 2017 and showed promising results. After a lackluster 2016 when he had a 4.62 ERA in 12 appearances, Dugger went 6-6, 2.75 over 31 appearances (18 starts) this past season while pitching in both low Class A and high Class A. Dugger pitches with a fastball that can reach up to 95 mph, but sits mostly 92-93, while his high-70s curveball flashes nice action and the ability to miss bats on a consistent basis. Dugger rounds out his four-pitch arsenal with an 80-84 mph slider and 81-85 mph changeup, all of which comes from three-quarters arm slot and a polished delivery. Dugger has built a reputation for working quick and pounding the strike zone over his brief minor league career, as evidence by his nearly 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2017.
Dee Gordon, 2B/CF
A two-time all-star with the Dodgers and Marlins, Gordon will move to the outfield for the first time in his eight-year big league career in 2018. Gordon’s plus speed, which helped him to a major league-best 60 stolen bases last season, should help ease the transition. As long as Gordon proves he is capable of playing an average centerfield, his bat should help the Mariners immediately. Last season, the Mariners’ primary centerfielder was Jarrod Dyson, who hit .251/.324/.350 in 111 games--all numbers in which Gordon should be able to match, and surpass, with a repeat of his offensive production from a year ago.