Dec. 07-- The Marlins made a major trade Thursday, but not the one everyone has been waiting on.
With NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton's future still uncertain, Miami sent second baseman Dee Gordon and international bonus money to the Mariners for three prospects: right-hander Nick Neidert, shortstop Christopher Torres and right-hander Robert Dugger.
This is the first of what is expected to be a series of payroll-slashing moves by the Marlins under CEO Derek Jeter and the new ownership group headed by chairman Bruce Sherman.
Seattle will pick up the rest of Gordon's contract, a source familiar with the negotiations said.
"We know where we're at. We need to get better," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We need to add depth. We need to do things to give us an opportunity to build an organization that we feel can win consistently.
"In this deal, we took a very good player ... and were able to add three very talented pieces to our minor league system."
The Marlins reportedly have tentative deals with the Giants and Cardinals for Stanton, who needs to waive his no-trade clause to go to any team, and could move other players as soon as next week's Winter Meetings.
Hill declined to discuss the status of Stanton negotiations.
Gordon, who is set to make $10.8 million 2018 and about $38 million over the next three years, was considered a primary candidate to be traded this offseason as the Marlins seek to cut payroll to the reported neighborhood of $90 million.
Miami's main prize in the trade, aside from shedding the money, is Neidert, who MLB Pipeline ranked as the Mariners' No. 2 prospect.
Neidert, 21, split 2017 between High A and Double A, dominating in the former (2.76 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) but struggling in the latter (6.56, 1.63). In 25 starts, he had 122 strikeouts to 22 walks in 1272/3 innings. Neidert was Seattle's second-round draft pick in 2015.
"We like the ceiling," Hill said. "Three-pitch mix: low-to-mid-90s fastball, breaking ball, changeup. For his age, to be able to pitch the way he does, it's an advanced feel to pitch."
Gordon's time in South Florida was mixed. In his first season, an All-Star 2015 campaign, he won a batting title, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. The Marlins, under previous owner Jeffrey Loria, rewarded him with a five-year, $50 million contract.
But an 80-game suspension after a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug cost him about half of 2016. Gordon never settled in, batting .268 with a .305 OBP and .335 slugging percentage.
That season brought Gordon's most memorable moment in a Marlins uniform and perhaps the most emotional moment in Marlins history.
On Sept. 26, 2016, in the team's first game after the death of Jose Fernandez, Gordon, the first Marlin to step to the plate, took the first pitch as a right-handed hitter, in honor of Fernandez. Then, switched to his normal side, Gordon with his first swing homered into the upper deck in right field at Marlins Park. It was his only long ball of the year.
Gordon bounced back in a big way this past season, leading the majors in steals (60) while hitting .308 and getting on base at a .341 clip-restoring his trade value and thus making a salary-shedding move possible for the Marlins' new regime.
"Dee loved playing close to home in Miami. He wanted to bring a championship to South Florida," Gordon's agent, Nate Heisler, said in a statement. "He never asked for a trade even as his name swirled in rumors throughout the off-season. He wants to thank the Marlins organization and their fans for all of their support and wishes them good luck in the future."
Moving Gordon leaves a hole at second base for Miami. Among the internal options are utility men Miguel Rojas and Derek Dietrich.
"We have options that we'll look at in spring training," Hill said. "Obviously, we still have a long offseason ahead of us."
The Mariners, who have perennial All-Star Robinson Cano at second, plan to play the speedy Gordon in center field.
"I think Dee Gordon is a tremendous player and can do anything in this game defensively," Hill said.
Torres, 19, was the Mariners' No. 7-ranked prospect. He is considered to have considerable upside at shortstop, but has shown little offensively as a pro, slashing .248/.358/.384 in 160 games.
That includes a .238/.324/.435 line in 2017 while playing in Short-Season A. Torres has some speed, too, stealing 13 bags in 48 games.
"We like the complete tool package," Hill said.
Dugger, 22, was not ranked by MLB Pipeline among Seattle's top 30 minor leaguers, but showed promise in his first full professional season in 2017. While splitting time between Low A and High A, he had a 3.37 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and about a strikeout per inning in 31 games (18 starts).
After transitioning to the rotation at the end of May, Dugger posted a 2.56 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
"That's when we saw him," Hill said. "We really think he has a chance to be an impact starting pitcher."
The bonus money the Marlins sent to Seattle wasn't actual cash, but instead permission to spend money on foreign players under baseball's international cap system. The Mariners, trying to sign Japanese pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani, got a $1 million boost from Miami.
(c)2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.