Miami Marlins Season Review: The Dee Gordon Trade


This article seems particularly poignant to write as Dee Gordon has won the National League Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards at second base the past couple of days.  Gordon has had by all accounts a very impressive 2015 and he has garnered all the praise that a player that has a good year should get. Gordon was named a starter for the NL All Star team although he wasn’t able to play due to injury.

Gordon’s .333 batting average was enough to beat Bryce Harper out in the NL batting race and now he has won a gold glove to top of a wonderful year that’s beyond reproach. The only problem is that Dee Gordon’s 2015 is likely nothing more than illusion caused by small sample size variance and luck.

The main complaint that many people have with Dee Gordon is not that he wasn’t a productive player in 2015 instead it is the coupling of what the Marlins gave up to get him and what kind of player Gordon profiles as.

I want to deal first with the players that the Marlins sent to the Dodgers before dealing with Gordon’s future as a player

The Marlins sent four players to the Dodgers and they got Dee Gordon in return. Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Hatcher and Austin Barnes.  The first three all spent considerable time in the Major Leagues in 2015, combining combined 3.7 fWAR. 

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Kikė, in 218 plate appearances for the Dodgers, slashed .307/.346/.490 with 21 extra base hits, which all added up to a 132 wRC+. This impressive offensive output, alongside with the ability to play scratch defense at various positions, gives Hernandez a lot of value.  There is also reason to think that Kikė has legitimate power. Kikė since the 2014 season at AA Corpus Christi has had periods where he has slugged between .403 in 21 games with the Zephyrs to .490 in 76 games with the Dodgers.

Kikė may never be slugger, but he’s doubles hitter who has good enough plate discipline that led to a 7.4% career walk rate in the minors. That has translated to a 7.5% walk rate in the Major Leagues through 214 plate appearances.

Kikė is the kind of player that defines modern baseball and its successful teams: players who are flexible, versatile and can produce offensively in more than one way.

Andrew Heaney, at the time the Miami Marlins traded him, was the best prospect in the Marlins organization and one of the top ranked left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball.  Although he looked less than impressive in his first stint up in The Show in 2014. Heaney posted 5.52 FIP and only struck out 15.9% of his batters in his first cup of coffee run in the majors.

There is still much to like with Heaney, including his stint with Salt Lake City in 2015, he owns a career 2.88 MiLB FIP, with a 23.6% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate.

Not surprising for a guy that the Marlins took with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Heaney’s rookie season was a good one, with a 3.73 FIP and 1.6 fWAR in 105.2 innings pitched, in 18 starts.

Austin Barnes, similar to Hernandez, is another very versatile player and has proven that he can play both the infield and catcher, if asked.  But what is most impressive about Barnes is his bat and plate discipline. He has a career minor league slash line of .300/.390/.439 and 176 extra base hits in 500 games.

Hatcher in his time in Miami’s bullpen transformed himself from a liability to one of the Marlin better high leverage arms in 2014 and that continued to be in 2015 at Chavez Ravine.

In short the Miami Marlins traded so much talent, value, and depth in the Dee Gordon trade, for an organization now screaming for talent and depth.

My first complaint, and the one that still remains for the Marlins baseball operations and scouting side, is that they seem to overvalue a player’s primary tool or overwhelming skill regardless of their other obvious shortcomings.

In Gordon’s case this was obviously his speed.

In 2014 Gordon had 64 stolen bases, but he was caught stealing 19 times. This only gave him a 77% success percentage on his stolen bases. This on top of a player who is almost entirely dependent on hitting the ball in play to get on base.

Gordon has a career 4.7% walk rate and a career .328 BABIP.

Gordon’s success in 2015 was largely fueled by an astronomical .383 BABIP, on an insane 3.19 GB/FB ratio. Gordon’s strategy for getting on base is to hit the ball hard on the ground hopefully past an infielder, using his speed to make it to first even if the ball isn’t hit out of the infield.

This is in one word: unsustainable.

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Speed, out of all of the different discrete baseball skill sets, is the one that starts to deteriorate the fastest. Gordon is also a late bloomer playing his second full MLB season at age-27.  By the time he becomes a free agent in 2019, he’ll already be in his 30s and he’ll already be going down the decline path of a speed dependent guy.

2015, thanks to a high BABIP and what could be an unsustainable or random spike in his UZR, netted Gordon a 4.6 WAR which will likely be the best mark for the rest of his career.

The Dee Gordon trade will not be defined as a failure or as success after one year.  But it does seem very hard to defend a trade that sent to the Angels and the Dodgers two very versatile and valuable position players, as well as a starting pitcher, that potential to be a top of the rotation guy for a long time.

The Marlins got in return three months of Dan Haren and Dee Gordon, who had a stellar 2015 season that he likely will never be able to duplicate again.

Next: FanSided Fan of the Year

Mike Hill and Dan Jennings made a mistake they gave up a lot of future production and most importantly value for a player that doesn’t walk and will become a liability as soon as his speed starts to go.