MLB.com's Joe Frisaro did his latest mailbag piece and had an interesting discussion on the potential future playing time conundrum of Dee Gordon.
If the Marlins are winning without Gordon, will they insert him back into the lineup right away upon his reinstatement?
Gordon is eligible to be reinstated on July 29, which will conclude his 80-game suspension for violating MLB's banned substance policy. The fact that he isn't eligible for the postseason also makes things interesting for his playing status.
It's hard to say right now how the playing time will sort itself out. Usually, it takes care of itself. But Dietrich has done a good job at second, and if the team is performing and winning, then it will be tricky for manager Don Mattingly to get Gordon back into the mix.
It is still way too early to make any real decisions about this, of course, which is why I advocated that Marlins fans not concern themselves about what will happen in 60 games. Like Frisaro says, there is a very good chance that this will work itself out. If Derek Dietrich struggles going forward or the Marlins for whatever reason end up (rightfully) trading Martin Prado, a spot will be open by the time Gordon gets back.
The difficulty lies in the scenario in which Gordon returns to a playoff-contending Marlins team with both Prado and Dietrich playing well. The Marlins would then have a tough decision on their hands because of several things.
- It would be difficult to justify benching any one particular starter if both were playing as well as they currently are
- Gordon should have every opportunity to regain his role in order to help instill confidence in his game and the backing of the Marlins organization after his suspension
- His playoff ineligibility would make keeping him a starter now and then pulling him in a potential playoff run an incongruous move for all parties involved
Gordon should get a shot to play, as he and Dietrich both bring different characteristics to the game.
Certainly, Gordon offers a speed dynamic the team is missing in his absence. And he's a Gold Glove Award winner, so his defense also is missed. We also don't know how quickly Gordon will be able to find his game stride.
However, as Frisaro points out, we have no idea how well Gordon will re-establish himself after spending 80 games on the sidelines. If both starting players are playing well, would it serve Miami better to rotate through the three and slowly reintegrate Gordon rather than simply stuffing him back into the lineup and into the leadoff role after a long hiatus? This would be especially difficult to justify the closer Miami is to any playofff hunt; any poor play from a starting personnel move like this might cost Miami precious runs the team will need to maximize to win.
Ultimately, Frisaro thinks Gordon will end up starting at the expense of Dietrich.
My guess is he will be back starting and leading off, because the team is deeper that way. Even if Dietrich isn't regularly playing at second base, I'm sure he will still get his share of at-bats, especially since he can also play third.
Getting Dietrich regular playing time seems difficult, even with his position "flexibility." The only opportunity, and one Miami might want to consider late in this season in particular, is a platoon role between him and Prado. Later in the year, whether the team is contending or not, this could be the best move for Miami. It does not sacrifice Prado's potential trade value now, since both need to be played at the moment. When Gordon returns, it gets a potentially good-hitting Dietrich playing time in a favorable situation. With Dietrich's decent defense to start the year, a platoon will likely be a net positive for the team. It would also give Dietrich time at third base, a position that will likely hold his best chance at a starting future in Miami.
Of course, this is still months away, so Miami really should not be concerned at the moment. By the time Gordon returns, the situation will become significantly clearer. But if the problem the Fish have is that they have three viable starting infielders, that is a fantastic problem to have.