Even Jerry Dipoto has limits to his creativity when it comes to making seemingly impossible trades as Mariners general manager.
Unfortunately for Dipoto and the Mariners, those restraints might be just too much to overcome in the next nine days leading up to the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
If he were to somehow swing a trade to move a player whose speed is his biggest asset but is currently on the injured list with a quad strain, well, he could trade a fleet of snow plows to the city of Phoenix.
Tuesday afternoon, the Mariners placed second baseman Dee Gordon, one of a handful of veterans Dipoto was hoping to trade before the July 31 deadline, on the 10-day injured list with a left quad strain. Gordon won’t be eligible to return until Aug 1. Infielder Tim Lopes had his minor-league contract selected from Class AAA Tacoma, and reliever Parker Markel was designated for assignment to make room for Lopes on the 40-man roster.
“This is crazy,” Gordon said of his latest injury. “I’ve got bad luck. I don’t know. I need to do something different in life.”
Second-base prospect Shed Long would have been the obvious choice to fill Gordon’s spot. But he suffered a fractured finger on his right hand and is on the 7-day minor-league injured list. He’s not expected to return for a few weeks.
Gordon felt like his leg wasn’t 100% going into Monday night’s win over the Rangers.
“It just wouldn’t loosen up,” he said.
He had planned to be careful with it while playing, but in his first at-bat in the second inning, he hit a soft bouncer to third and sprinted to first as hard as he could for an infield single. He felt the quad tighten up.
“It’s like I have a knot in there at all times,” he said.
He was removed from the game after the inning. He also got hit in the back with a pickoff throw after the single.
“That was crazy,” he said.
A MRI on Tuesday morning revealed a quad strain that was worse than a Grade 1, but not quite a Grade 2. Gordon said it’s the first muscular strain in his legs that he’s dealt with in his career.
“I’m new to this,” he said. “I’ve had both thumbs dislocated, a broken toe and the wrist. No muscular issues.”
Manager Scott Servais thought Gordon will be out for an extended period of time.
“It’s going to be a few weeks,” Servais said. “I don’t have an exact timeline, but he needs to let it heal up.”
Gordon didn’t like that prognosis, saying he thinks he can be back when his 10 days are up. Of course, because he’s never dealt with this injury, it’s difficult for him to be certain. But he said it doesn’t hurt when he walks and he can move the leg without pain. But that knot is a constant.
He does plan to start hitting in the next few days, saying it doesn’t bother him to swing. Is Gordon’s optimism about a quick return a last-second push of hope to assuage possible suitors that he could help a contending team?
Though he hasn’t been as verbal as teammate Mike Leake about exiting an organization that is in rebuild mode, Gordon is savvy enough to know he isn’t part of the Mariners’ plans moving forward. He’s under contract for 2020 and owed $13.5 million with a $1 million buyout of his 2021 club option of $14 million.
It’s no secret the Mariners were pushing to trade Gordon at the deadline. Given the number of contending teams in the National League and Gordon’s speed, they thought they could move him. The Cubs’ lingering problems with Addison Russell and Gordon’s solid reputation on the field and in the clubhouse made for a hopeful fit.
But moving a player reliant on speed with a leg injury seems unlikely. And any return would certainly be diminished. Gordon wasn’t going to be an easy sell to teams given his contract, but the Mariners’ willingness to eat money on these veteran deals has been established. That would’ve helped the process.
Asked about his chances of being traded, Gordon was honest.
“I was going to be here anyway,” he said. “There wasn’t fits for me. My feet are going to be right here.”
Those fits certainly seem lessened.
If not for a wayward fastball from J.A. Happ that struck Gordon on the right wrist May 9 at Yankee Stadium, he might have already been traded. In those first 38 games, he had a .304/.336/.406 slash line with three doubles, a triple, three homers, 19 RBI, seven walks and 10 stolen bases. After sitting out a few games and then making the regrettable decision to come back and play through the pain, Gordon predictably struggled. He was later diagnosed with a deep bone bruise and placed on the 10-day injured list May 21. He missed 19 games.
In his 32 games following the Happ hit by pitch, Gordon had a .204/.230/.278 slash line with four doubles, two triples, six RBI, four walks and six stolen bases.
But with the trade deadline looming, he had started to pick up his production. In the last seven games, he had 10 hits in 20 plate appearances.
In past years, this injury wouldn’t have completely robbed the Mariners and Gordon of potential trades. Given his salary, he would have been an easy player to move on a waiver trade in August. But this past offseason, MLB and the MLB Players’ Association agreed to get rid of waiver trades and have just one deadline.
In an ideal “step-back” world, the Mariners would have been able to trade Gordon at the deadline and have a healthy Long start every day at second base next to shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford and prepare to be the opening-day tandem next season. Instead, they started journeyman Austin Nola at second base Tuesday night.
What will happen with Gordon? Well, he’ll likely play out the rest of the season and perhaps share time with Long, who can also move around the diamond. The Mariners will try to move Gordon in the offseason, and if that fails, they’ll try to move him at next year’s deadline as a rental.
While Gordon seems stuck in Seattle, Leake will take to the mound Wednesday with what is expected to be a large group of opposing MLB scouts in attendance. Most will be there to see Texas left-hander Mike Minor, who is 7-5 with a 2.86 ERA and one of the larger trade pieces available. But they’ll also check on Leake, whom they know is available for a minimal cost financially with average prospect return.