According to reports, the Los Angeles Dodgers are shopping shortstop Dee Gordon at the winter meetings in Nashville.
If you were Mets GM, would you make a deal for him?
Once a highly touted prospect, Gordon has had a somewhat disjointed and difficult start to his big-league career. He hit .304 and stole 24 bases in 56 games in 2011, but followed it up with a .228 batting average and 32 stolen bases in 87 games in a 2012 season abbreviated by a torn thumb. Gordon’s step backward seems to have motivated the Dodgers to consider moving Hanley Ramirez to his preferred position at shortstop, meaning there’s no place on the diamond for Gordon. LA could send Gordon back to AAA, but it’s unlikely he’ll gain any value playing in the minors. As it is, they’ll be selling Gordon low; maybe they saw what the Braves did with Tommy Hanson and believe it makes sense to cut their losses now, before Gordon’s value reaches zero.
So why would the Mets make a play for Gordon? Because they would be buying low, and the kid — at only 25 — still has the potential for upside.
Gordon’s top tool is his blinding speed; his second plus tool is arm strength. However, he hasn’t yet polished his game around those two tools — he gets caught stealing far too often, he’s not very good at bunting for a hit, and many of his errors result from overthrowing. As a hitter, his performance has been mixed; he’s shown the ability to draw a walk in the minors, but he’s never shown consistent discipline and patience at the plate. He’s an enthusiastic, high-energy guy who works hard and hustles. In short, he’s raw — what he needs is playing time and perhaps a change in scenery.
Why would the Mets trade for Gordon when they already have a young shortstop in Ruben Tejada? Because the Mets have absolutely no athleticism in the middle infield at any level of the organization, and championship teams get that way because they have athletes “up the middle.” Further, it may be possible to slide Gordon to second base — who knows, it might solve his throwing issues. Gordon’s athleticism actually gets in the way of his performance, because he leans on it too much. He has great range and strong arm but is often too aggressive, and seems to never “quit” on a play — and that’s where the errors come from, because he will rush. My thought is that at second base, he’ll have more time, and might learn to slow down. I believe that his raw skills could could make him as good defensively as Brandon Phillips at second base.
Offensively, he shows a quick bat — quick enough to hit .280 – .300+ at the big league level. However, whether he’ll ever tame that innate aggressiveness in order to hit as high as .250 is questionable. Again, the raw skill is there, but it needs to be polished. With his speed, he should be able to bunt for 10-15 hits a year. Bunting for a hit requires only one god-given skill — blazing speed, which Gordon already has. Beyond speed, it requires technique developed through hard work. Considering the Mets have one of the great all-time bunters on their staff in Wally Backman, I can see Gordon becoming a deadly drag bunter after one spring training.
I know what you’re thinking — at 25, Gordon is too old to be so raw. Sure, the clock is ticking, but consider this: Gordon didn’t play baseball until his senior year of high school, so he’ll be a late bloomer. That’s why I think he still has upside — he’s still developing, and likely will improve his game all-around with more reps. His athleticism is off the charts; his main issue other than getting reps is taming his aggressiveness.
Of course, it all depends on what the Dodgers are asking in return for Gordon. Certainly, I wouldn’t consider Jonathon Niese or any of the Mets’ top trading chips. However, I might offer LA a bullpen arm — maybe Bobby Parnell, if the Dodgers threw in a promising A or AA pitcher. Maybe Elvin Ramirez straight up would do the trick? Or, perhaps the Dodgers would consider swapping Gordon for Jordany Valdespin, who would give LA a versatile utilityman?
What’s your thought? Should the Mets try to improve their athleticism up the middle by acquiring Gordon? Why or why not?
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.