On Wednesday evening, it was reported that the Miami Marlins had agreed to a lucrative five-year, $50 million deal with their stud second baseman Dee Gordon. The deal could be worth up to as much as $64 million if that option kicks in for a sixth year. In what could be one of the more obvious tales of a change of scenery affecting a player for the better, the speedster now locks into the Miami Marlins for what will likely be the last major contract of his career.
At 28 years old, that speed will obviously decline at the tail end of this deal. But it’s impossible to ignore everything that Gordon has brought to the Marlins since he was essentially forced out of Los Angeles, having lost his spot with the Dodgers. Gordon has spun a historically low walk rate into an advantage, reaching base last year at a rate that virtually no one thought sustainable. That’s in addition to fielding metrics that help to favor him as one of the better second basemen in baseball.
Gordon’s numbers last year really do stand on their own, even without any sort of comparison to the rest of the league’s second sackers. He slashed .333/.359/.418, reaching base at what was easily the highest clip of his career. While that can be highly attributed to a .383 BABIP, the speed factor allows us to dismiss the idea that it’s something that can be sustained, at least to a certain extent – especially given that he posted a 12.1 infield hit percentage, the highest mark of his career.
That speed aspect is a large part of what makes Gordon so valuable to the Marlins. He utilizes that speed appropriately and capitalizes on it as an integral element of his game. That’s reflected in the fact that almost 60 percent of the contact he makes is of the groundball variety, while another 21.5% comes in the form of line drives. Only 18.7% of Gordon’s contact ends up in the air, making that distribution extremely appropriate for a player with his skill set.
Sure, there are those that criticize his lack of walks. He swung at over 50% of pitches overall last season, which seems like an obscenely high number. But he also posted an 87.7% contact rate, including 77.6% on out of zone pitches and 94.1% of pitches in the strike zone. His speed allows him to compensate for the fact that he walked just 3.8% of the time last season.
His work with the glove is where Dee Gordon really earns his bones, though. While not entirely indicative of his ability, he only recorded six errors, while going for a .992 fielding percentage. He posted a 6.4 UZR at second, with 13 Defensive Runs Saved. Additionally, he made 59 Out of Zone plays at the position, forming what could very well be that best defensive middle infield combination in baseball, with Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop.
Gordon’s prowess with the glove had him at the top of the league among 2B in UZR, second in DRS, and seventh in OOZ plays. His 8.6 FanGraphs Def rating was the highest among Major League second basemen not named Addison Russell. Even when you take the offense and speed element away from him, that defensive aspect makes him an extremely valuable asset.
In terms of National League second basemen, Dee Gordon easily ran away with the title in WAR, posting a 4.6 figure. The closest to him was the aforementioned Russell, with a 2.9 mark. Only Jason Kipnis had a higher mark in all of baseball among second basemen. His 58 steals, unsurprisingly, led all of baseball. The strides that Gordon has made in order to improve his game have not only benefited him as an individual, but now have him standing as one of the game’s elite second basemen.
Not only is this a well-deserved contract for a high quality player, and an extremely likable guy to boot, but this could pan out as a bargain for the Marlins. While his speed may decline toward the back end, this is still good value for a player that has become one of the best at his position, particularly in forming what could be perhaps the best defensive middle infield in baseball. There are guys that you definitely feel good for when they are able to cash in on a well-earned, lucrative deal. Dee Gordon is one of those guys.
**Statistics via FanGraphs