Mariners gain financial edge in Ohtani race
SEATTLE (AP) — Landing Dee Gordon via trade is an immediate upgrade for the Seattle Mariners.
Getting Gordon may ultimately help the Mariners land the most coveted prize of the offseason: Shohei Ohtani.
Seattle pulled off one of the biggest moves of the offseason to date by acquiring Gordon from the Miami Marlins for three minor leaguers on Thursday. While the addition of Gordon is a major boost for Seattle, the other item that came from the Marlins could prove more important.
The Mariners also received $1 million in international bonus pool allocation. Seattle now has the most available money in the bonus pool of any major league team, inching ahead of the Texas Rangers by $22,500. Seattle has $3,557,500 available to the Rangers’ $3,535,000.
“It’s nice to have,” Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
Dipoto hasn’t been shy in saying Ohtani is Seattle’s top offseason priority, and the Mariners have made aggressive moves in the past two days to help bolster their chances to sign the star Japanese pitcher and outfielder. They traded a minor leaguer to Minnesota for $1 million in additional bonus allocation on Wednesday.
The AL West is taking notice of Dipoto’s efforts.
“I just don’t want him to end up in my division,” Oakland Athletics general manager David Forst said Thursday. “We’re keeping an eye on it. We were involved in it for a couple days until we were told we weren’t. We’re kind of just watching it with curiosity.”
It just so happened that the money from Miami also came with Seattle’s presumptive new center fielder.
“He’s a terrific athlete and I don’t think the transition to center field will be a terribly difficult one for him,” Dipoto said. “He’s up for the challenge and actually doesn’t live too far from Ken Griffey Jr., so I think he’s already planning on reaching out for a little assistance.”
For his part, Gordon said he was “shocked” to learn of the trade and the Mariners desire to move him from second base to center field. Gordon’s agent, Nate Heisler, released a statement saying the Mariners did not receive Gordon’s approval for the position switch prior to the trade being finalized.
Gordon said he’ll accept the position switch, but maybe not with the most enthusiasm.
“I had honestly never heard of a situation where a guy who was a Gold Glove-caliber player at his position turning over to a new positon,” Gordon said. “I was definitely shocked, but at the end of the day I’m a team player and if that’s what I have to do for the Seattle Mariners, if that’s what is best for them then that’s what I’ve got to do.”
Gordon did play center field briefly during winter ball in the Dominican Republic during the 2013-14 offseason and thought he “played pretty well,” during the limited opportunities. Seattle is adding significant speed and a knack for getting on base to its batting order. Gordon has led the National League in stolen bases three of the past four seasons and led the NL in batting in 2015.
He served an 80-game suspension in 2016 after a positive test for exogenous testosterone and Clostebol, substances he said he took unknowingly. Gordon hit .308 with a .341 on-base percentage last season, when he scored 114 runs and topped the major leagues with 60 stolen bases.
Gordon’s contract calls for salaries of $10.5 million, $13 million and $13.5 million in the next three seasons. His deal includes a $14 million team option in 2021 with a $1 million buyout, a salary that would become guaranteed if he has 600 plate appearances in 2020 or 1,200 in 2019-20 combined, and he finishes 2020 on the active major league roster.
“We want to be more athletic, we want to be faster. We want to be more dynamic on the bases,” Dipoto said. “There are very few players on the planet more dynamic on the bases than Dee Gordon. … We did add an impact force on the bases here. We did add a really athletic defender who has got some gold on his shelf.”