The home run king is still a Marlin. The stolen base champion is not.
While the clock continued to tick on slugger Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins on Thursday dealt speedy second baseman Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners for three minor league prospects.
The move was the first payroll-slashing measure in what is expected to be a series of them in an effort designed to lower costs while rebuilding the team’s weak farm system.
More are likely to come, perhaps during next week’s Winter Meetings, if not sooner.
“We need to get better,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “We need to add depth. We need to do things to give us an opportunity to build an organization. We took an All Star-caliber player in Dee Gordon and were able to add three very talented pieces to our minor league system.”
Gordon will make $10.5 million next season and a total of $37 million over the next three years.
The Marlins are reportedly trying to lower their 2018 payroll to about $90 million, and unloading the contracts of both Stanton and Gordon, as well as those of others, would help them get to that figure.
In Gordon, the Marlins gave up their leadoff hitter and left themselves without a full-time second baseman. Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas could play second. But Hill said the team will explore all options “that will change shape as the offseason progresses.”
“We have options that we’ll look at in spring training,” Hill said. “If we were starting today, we have internal options who can, and have, played second base for us.”
The Marlins acquired Gordon from the Dodgers in 2014 and the deal paid instant dividends when he won both the batting and stolen base titles, as well as a Gold Glove award, in his first season in Miami.
The Marlins then rewarded Gordon with a five-year contract extension worth $50 million. But Gordon missed half the 2016 season after receiving an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs.
He rebounded last season, hitting .308 and leading the majors with 60 stolen bases. Gordon provided the Marlins with one of the team’s most stirring moments toward the end of the 2016 season when he homered in his first at bat following the death of Jose Fernandez.
Meanwhile, the Marlins are continuing to await word from Stanton on whether he would accept a trade. The have the framework of a deal worked out with both the Giants and Cardinals. The Dodgers are also believed to be involved in talks for Stanton.
But Stanton has a full no-trade clause that allows him to veto any deal.
Thursday’s trade could put pressure on Stanton to quickly accept a trade. The alternative for him: return to the Marlins and find himself as the lone star on a weakened club.
The Marlins received a package of three prospects in the Gordon deal: right-handed pitchers Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger, and shortstop Christopher Torres.
Neidert was the Mariners’ second-round draft pick in 2015. He has gone 18-11 with a 2.87 ERA in 55 starts over three minor-league seasons. He pitched at High A and Double A last season, going 11-6 with a 3.45 ERA.
He is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Mariners farm system by MLB Pipeline.
“We like all 3 players, but Neidert is probably the closest to the major leagues,” Hill said. “We like the ceiling. We like the opportunity to add starting pitching into the organization.”
Torres, a switch-hitter, was ranked as the Mariners’ No. 7 prospect.
In addition to Gordon, the Marlins also sent $1 million in international signing bonus pool money to Seattle, which the Mariners can use in their bid to land Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.
Since the Mariners already have a second baseman in Robinson Cano, there were reports they intend to move Gordon to center field.