SEATTLE — Dee Gordon is proud of being a Gold Glove second baseman.
But then came a talk with Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Soon after, plans were unveiled to turn Gordon into a center fielder — a position he’s never played in his seven-year, two-time All-Star career thus far.
“I was shocked,” Gordon said. “I had honestly never heard of a situation where a guy who is a Gold Glove-caliber player at his position turning over to a new position. I was definitely shocked.”
But how could Dipoto pass on the chance at an athlete like Gordon?
As Dipoto said following the Thursday trade that brings Gordon from the Miami Marlins for three minor-league prospects, few players on the planet are more dynamic on the bases than Gordon, who has led the National League in steals three of the past four seasons.
It’s certainly not unheard of for players to successfully transition from middle infield to outfield (just look at what one-time Mariners prospect Chris Taylor did with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017). And Dipoto said Gordon’s explosive acceleration could help make him a Gold Glover in the outfield some day.
“There is really nothing that concerns us in this transition,” Dipoto said. “As one of our players who was a teammate of Dee’s said (likely reliever David Phelps), you want to know how to catch a fly ball? Just watch the way he runs after pop ups down the line as a second baseman.’
“As an athlete, he really lines up as not just a center fielder, but a potentially excellent center fielder.”
In exchange, the Mariners sent three minor-league players, right-handed pitcher Robert Dugger, right-handed pitcher Nick Neidert and infielder Christopher Torres to Miami.
And there was other developments that could make this an even bigger deal.
The Mariners also acquired another $1 million to use in international slot money in the sweepstakes for Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, a day after acquiring $1 million from the Twins.
That would bring their slot total to about $3.55 million, according to reports. That’s more than the Rangers reportedly had available, which would mean the Mariners could offer Ohtani the biggest signing bonus of any of the seven finalists remaining.
“It’s nice to have,” Dipoto said.
He didn’t elaborate until prodded a little further.
“We still have some space to add and, as you may have figured out in the past few weeks, and especially in the past couple days, we’ve been really aggressive in doing so,” Dipoto said.
But, back to this big deal.
Gordon led the majors, again, with 60 stolen bases this past season, while hitting .308 with a .341 on-base percentage.
In 2016, he missed 80 games because he was suspended for violating the league’s drug policy after testing positive for exogenous Testosterone and Clostebol, performance-enhancing substances in violation of MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
But in 79 games, he still had 30 stolen bases that season. And the two years prior to that, Gordon had a combined 122 steals. He led the National League with 205 hits his first season in Miami in 2015 and won the NL batting title (.333).
And more on his speed: Since 2014, Gordon leads all players in triples with 35 while ranking second in stolen bases with 212. He is the only active player to bat at least .300 while stealing at least 50 bases in multiple seasons (2015 and 2017).
Here’s the issue: The 29-year-old Gordon has played primarily second base and the Mariners already have an All-Star second baseman in 35-year-old Robinson Cano.
Gordon said it’s a dream to be able to play alongside Cano, who he remembered watching alongside his father, 21-year pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon — a three-time All-Star himself — when Gordon and Cano were with the Yankees together.
He said there were few reasons he’d agree to switch from second base, but doing so for Cano is one of them.
“Yeah, wow, Robinson Cano is a dream come true for me to play with,” Gordon said. “I watched that guy play with my dad as a rookie. He’s always been awesome. It’s a dream. If I have to move, I’m not going got lie to you and just say, ‘Oh, yeah, let me move,’ because I worked really hard, really really hard to become one of the best second basemen in baseball. But if there’s anybody I would move for, it would be Robbie.”
And center field became a need since Jarrod Dyson became a free agent at the end of the season.
Gordon did play nine games in center field with Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Republic in the 2013-14 season. He also played three games in left field and one game in right field for that team.
“And, honestly, I played there pretty well, just kind of winging it,” Gordon said. “Hopefully with some good teaching, some major-league caliber teaching, I see myself as a fast learner. Like I told Jerry, I just want to compete for a Gold Glove and help this team win.”
And he has apparently reached out to Ken Griffey Jr.
He said he lives close to the Hall of Fame center fielder in Florida and he knows Griffey’s son, Trey, well. And he said he frequently tried to emulate Griffey’s highlight catch on the wall in center field when he was growing up, shagging balls for his father.
Gordon is due $38 million over the next three years, including $10.5 million in 2018.
“I talked to Phelps the other day when I was in the Dominican Republic doing mission work,” Gordon said. “I got a little interested because my agent had called me so I made sure I called Phelps and I talked to him about it and he told me it’s a great organization. And, honestly, he’s one of my good friends in the game. I’ll believe in anything he tells me.
“And I was tempted to call Ichi (Ichiro) but he might be in Japan.”