Baseball can change a lot over a two-year course. In 2017, the Marlins had a great starting lineup that featured Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto, with Dee Gordon igniting the offense from the leadoff spot. But overall, the team was mediocre and lacking a clear path to improve into a true contender. The following offseason (under new ownership), a full rebuild of the franchise began, and Gordon was the first of those familiar faces to be flipped for younger, more controllable talent.
#Marlins acquire 3 players from Seattle – including 2 of Seattle’s top 7 prospects – in exchange for Dee Gordon; Welcome RHP @NickNeidert, INF Christopher Torres and RHP Robert Dugger. pic.twitter.com/0gtaavwcPz— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) December 7, 2017
Trading Gordon away meant two things for the Marlins organization:
1) Gaining budget flexibility—the speedy second baseman had $37 guaranteed million and three remaining years, plus a 2021 club option for $14 MM
2) Obtaining pieces to boost their ailing farm system
Now that we’ve had two full years to watch this transaction unfold, let’s look at how each of these players are performing. Have they lived up to the hype that comes by being included in a trade for a charismatic former All-Star who collected 201 hits and stole 60 bases?
Neidert is the Marlins No. 11 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and the most interesting player of the three. He was named Miami’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 12-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 2018, but fought through knee trouble during the 2019 season. He was 3-4 with a 5.05 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A New Orleans. The 23-year-old righty, famous for excellent control, recorded an uncharacteristically high 4.5 BB/9 and a 1.56 WHIP across only 54 innings during this campaign in the minors.
What made the Fish feel more calm about him was his Arizona Fall League performance—he allowed only three earned runs across 21 2⁄3 frames (1.25 ERA). His ratios were back to normal: 0.8 BB/9 and 7.9 K/9.
Final Arizona Fall League stats for Nick Neidert (including Fall Stars Game appearance)— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) October 24, 2019
1.14 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 2 BB, 23 K in 23.2 IP pic.twitter.com/ZEgsKagUwk
Miami could test Neidert in the big leagues in 2020 and find out whether or not they can count on him to be a quality rotation arm in the long term. Along with Sixto Sánchez and Edward Cabrera, he aims to be a key player as the team attempts to assemble the kind of deep starting staff that the previous core never had.
Dugger already made his MLB debut and, despite having a few quality outings, he ended up with a 0-4 record (5.77 ERA) after seven starts. He’s projected as a nice back-end starting pitcher that can give the Marlins what they need out of a fifth man in the rotation.
Torres, the youngest of the return for Gordon, is a speedy shortstop that can be an OBP machine and steal a bunch of bases each year, but he doesn’t seem to be close to the majors yet. The Dominican needs to make contact at a more consistent rate and tighten up his defense.
So far, Neidert and Dugger—along with Torres—are fitting in the organization’s plans and look to be an appropriate return for a veteran that had an amazing run in Miami and was a fan favorite. While Gordon’s performance has sharply declined since the trade (.271/.295/.353, 52 SB in 258 G), there’s a realistic possibility that the players received in return for him can contribute to the next great Marlins team.