Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins, 2B, 28
Extension Details: Five years (’16-’20), $50 million with a $14 million team option for 2021
Career Statistics (5 seasons): 1,972 PA, .293/.328/.369, 67 2B, 25 3B, 8 HR, 3.31 K/BB, 96 OPS+, .307 wOBA, 95 wRC+, .265 TAv, 9 DRS, 1.6 UZR/150, 7.0 fWAR
2015 Statistics: 653 PA, .333/.359/.418, 24 2B, 8 3B, 4 HR, 3.64 K/BB, 114 OPS+, .337 wOBA, 113 wRC+, .292 TAv, 13 DRS, 6.0 UZR/150, 4.6 fWAR
After a promising rookie season in which Gordon hit .304/.325/.362 over 233 plate appearances with the Dodgers, the Windermere, FL native struggled in his next two major-league campaigns, combining to hit .229/.289/.285 in over 400 trips to the plate with Los Angeles between 2012 and 2014. Gordon also struggled in the field, posting a -16 DRS at shortstop over those three seasons, prompting a move over the second base. Luckily for Gordon, he had speed on his side, displaying good base-stealing ability at the major-league level, swiping 66 bags from 2011-2013.
In 2014, Gordon took his game back to where it had been in his rookie season and beyond, slashing .289/.326/.378 in his first season as a full-time starter, knocking 24 doubles, 12 triples, and stealing 64 bases in 83 attempts (77 percent). While Gordon’s strikeout and walk numbers were a bit less than ideal for a leadoff hitter (107:31 K:BB), his excellent ability to turn batted balls into hits (.346 BABIP) and great base-stealing ability earned him his first career trip to the All-Star Game. Defensively, Gordon experienced some struggles at his new position, but was better than he had ever been at shortstop.
After a seven-player trade in December of 2014 sent Gordon across the country to the Miami Marlins, he picked up the 2015 seasons where he left off in 2014, tearing up the National League East to the tune of a major-league best 205 hits, finishing the season with an impressive .333/.359/.418 line, 24 doubles, eight triples and four homers. Gordon continued to steal bases in excess, leading the majors with 58 thefts, but his success rate dipped to just 74 percent (58-for-78). In the field, Gordon made huge strides, saving 13 runs defensively and posting a 6.4 UZR/150, a career best for any season at any position.
Looking ahead, there are legitimate questions about Gordon’s ability to live up to the generous contract given to him by Jeffrey Loria and company this offseason. While 2015 was a successful campaign defensively, it was undoubtedly an outlier in a group of poor defensive showings, and 2016 will be key for Gordon to show whether or not is was a true improvement in his defensive skill or just a fluke. At the plate, Gordon has more of a track record to back up his 2015 success, but one would be wise in assuming Gordon will not replicate his extraordinary slash line on a regular basis, if ever again.
The biggest concern for Gordon is his extreme BABIP luck in the past two seasons (.346 in 2014, .383 in 2015). Gordon hits an extreme amount of ground balls, more than 10 percent above league average, and relies on those grounders getting through the infield in order to get most of his hits. In the two seasons where Gordon has posted a BABIP close to league average (2012 and 2013), his batting average has been quite disappointing. Gordon’s offensive ability hinges directly on his ability to get hits on balls in play, which is largely dependent on the defense and not the hitter. For this reason, Gordon is a total question mark at the plate heading into 2016.
While Gordon’s total price tag isn’t as high as Crawford’s, it’s certainly a sizable amount for someone with unproven defensive ability and inconsistent offensive reliability. By the end of the deal, Gordon will be earning over $13 million per season. For the next few years, Gordon’s price tag will be more manageable, and he is a year younger than Crawford. With any luck for the Marlins, Gordon can establish himself as a truly valuable player over the next two years so that he will rightly deserve his money when he starting earning eight figures a season.