Miami Marlins: What Could A Dee Gordon Extension Look Like?


Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon has solidified himself as an above average regular to all star caliber player, depending on exactly how good one expects his defense to be going forward. Whatever your opinion may be of him, he is definitely a part of a Marlins core that is looking to establish the franchise as a team that can compete consistently. As with every core member of every team, extensions should be explored. As is the case, the Marlins have been exploring an extension with Dee Gordon. Locking in cost certainty for a team’s most important players is essential to properly plan and supplement the team’s core, so good for the Marlins to look into extensions for Gordon and various other members of the Marlins core.

So what could an extension look like? First, is the matter of Gordon’s arbitration years. He just made $2.5 million as a first time arbitration eligible Super Two player. Being a Super Two player means Gordon’s arbitration years could get quite expensive. projects Gordon to make $5.9 million in his second trip through arbitration. Gordon could stand to make $9 million in 2017 and $13 million in 2018. While his batting average will surely fall back down to earth, he is going to continue to post high stolen base numbers, something that gets rewarded through the arbitration process. In total, Gordon’s remaining arbitration years are currently estimated at $28 million. The purpose of offering an extension and guaranteeing a player money now is to potentially get a deal on future years (to whatever extent) and lock in cost certainty, so I’d offer $25 million for his remaining arb years. The salary breakdown would come out to be $6 million in 2016, $8 million in 2017, and $11 million in 2018.

The tricky part of a Gordon extension is his free agent years. Gordon just completed his age 27 season, meaning he is set to hit free agency upon completion of his age 30 season. Speed and defense players do age a bit earlier, so it’s reasonable to question how Gordon will perform beyond his 30s. How you think Gordon will age ultimately depends on your opinion of his defense. Last season, Defensive Runs Saved had him at 13 runs (justifying his gold glove) while Ultimate Zone Rating had him at 6 runs, “merely” above average. No one is going to argue his true defensive talent is as a gold glove caliber defender, but he is definitely at least above average. The argument is whether or not you think he’s above average or great with the glove, which is crucial in setting a starting point with which he will decline from. I think his defense will basically hold steady around 5-8 runs over the next 3 seasons, boding pretty well for how much value he will have beyond those years.

There are a fair number of comparable contracts that can serve as bases for Gordon’s free agent years. Chone Figgins signed for $9 million a year over 4 years (following a season in which he put up 6 fWAR) in advance of the 2010 season, his age 32 season. He had one season in which he was barely worth more than a win and subsequently cratered in his age 33 season. In 2012, Michael Bourn put up 6 fWAR at the age of 29. He signed a 4 year $48 million deal with the Indians, put up a slightly less than average 2013 at age 30, and has been replacement since. These contracts kind of set an expectation for what speed and defense players should get in free agency, but also displays just how quickly these deals can turn sour.

I think Dee Gordon compares favorably to Chone Figgins. Dee’s contact rates are higher than Figgins’ in a time when league contact rates are only going down. Dee also puts the ball on the ground a lot more than Figgins did, taking advantage of his faster speed. Their offensive profiles differ, with Figgins relying a lot on taking walks and Gordon using his speed to support his BABIP, This means that Gordon is very reliant on his speed for his overall value, so any loss of it could be catastrophic. However, it is the impressive bat-to-ball skills and speed that lead me to believe Gordon can hold his value and age just a little more gracefully than Figgins.

So what does all of the above mean? It’s an attempt to come up with not only an annual figure that the team would feel comfortable giving to Dee’s post-30 seasons but also how many of those seasons the team should want to guarantee Gordon. Bourn saw his value drop off a cliff in his age 30 season, but his contact skills weren’t even close to what Dee’s are. Figgins was excellent into his age 31 season before falling off his own cliff. Ideally, the team should want to just guarantee his arbitration years, but Dee and his camp would definitely want at least one free agent year guaranteed. The Marlins could offer to buy out 1 free agent year and the counter would probably be to buy out 2, so a fair compromise would be 1 FA year plus a club option for a second and a buyout of the option. How much should these seasons be worth? $15 million is a fair number considering what speed and defense guys have been paid on the FA market, the inflation of player’s salaries, and Gordon’s last arbitration season being bought out at $11 million. The option could be worth $17 million with a $2 million buyout, effectively making his 2020 season worth $15 million.

This would bring the guarantee up to 4 years and $42 million, with the potential to be 5/$57 million. With the way salaries have been rising, this looks like a steal for an all-star caliber second baseman. However, there is a great deal of risk considering it is a deal for a speed and defense player approaching his 30s. They key is to minimize the risk as much as possible; the Marlins need to limit the guarantee of post-30 seasons. Going to 7 years on a deal would be total lunacy for a player so reliant on his speed to provide much of his value. Even guaranteeing 5 years is a bit much for a team so cash-strapped, no matter your opinion of Dee. I would almost say it’s necessary an extension is completed. However, the team has very little room for error, so this deal needs to be executed with precision.