The Marlins have shown interest in trading away players like Giancarlo Stanton, Martin Prado, and Dee Gordon to trim payroll according to a report from the Miami Herald. Some may think Gordon would be a good fit on the Mets, but they should be cautious about trading for the second baseman.
Let’s say we are two neighbors in a nice suburb. A few years ago, I leased a car for two years and it was a luxury car, say a Mercedes or a Lincoln. The car looked like a steal in the first year. It had no issues, ran well, got great mileage, never had any issues that required it to go into the shop, and it seated many people for trips and business. You, my neighbor, wondered why you didn’t make the same purchase.
I went ahead and bought the car and took out a five-year loan on it. It was a pretty expensive car but it appeared well worth it. The next year however, the car started having issues. It was not performing as well and it was recalled. The following summer, the car looks like it did the first year. It has that same feeling, but the company told me the risks of the car breaking down are moderately high and it’s unlikely to maintain this level of production going forward. I walk over one fine fall evening and tell you, “I’ll give you my car, all you have to do is take the payment off my hands. I don’t even want to swap cars, you just have to take mine and take the payment on it.”
It’s a complex example, but in a lot of ways this is how the Marlins will dump Gordon and his contract. Gordon himself is a league-average hitter who gets a lot of his numbers from batting average. That’s fine but the problem is, what if the batting average drops off? Gordon does not walk much nor does he hit for much power.
Gordon had an expected batting average (xBA) of .237 in 2017 according to Baseball Savant. This is based off his exit velocity and his launch angle. The common notion is Gordon should just hit the ball on the ground and leg out base hits. Here’s the issue with that narrative, Gordon hit .266/.266/.279 on balls on the ground with a 43 wRC+. He hit an even more meager .167/.162/.314 with a 14 wRC+ on fly balls. A good percentage of his production came on line drives. Gordon hit .711/.705/.917 on line drives with a 339 wRC+. Here’s the added fact with that: he only had a hard contact rate of 22.1% on line drives.
For reference, Daniel Murphy hit .693/.693/.984 on line drives with a 350 wRC+, but had a 45% hard contact rate. The odds of Gordon maintaining his insane production on line drives seems unlikely due to the fact that he just does not hit the ball hard enough.
The Mets could use a second baseman and the Marlins are willing to hand Gordon and his poor contract to anyone who wants it. That does not mean the Mets should take it just for the sake of taking it and filling a position. Yes, Gordon fills a position and would help the defense, but Gordon might also not be as productive as some think. Especially since he is getting older and that he is losing speed. Speed is a huge part of Gordon’s game and it may be his biggest asset. Gordon went 60/76 on steals and had a 9.2 BsR.
Potentially adding Gordon will have its risks and it will have its benefits. In my opinion, they can spend the money better elsewhere. They can get a more bonafide reliever or starter while also adding a second baseman who is not necessarily Gordon. When constructing a team, it is not as simple as looking at a player’s batting average and adding him to the roster. There are many things to consider, but in this case, the batting average being sustainable seems to be a big one due to the fact Gordon’s offensive production largely comes from his batting average.
Gordon is not the type of player who can be good with a low batting average. His inability to walk and being a slap hitter will likely prevent that unless he makes major changes to his approach. Gordon would be a pricey gamble for the Mets.