Dee Gordon and Dan Haren helped start the reconstruction.
Two players at the opposite ends of their respective careers who had been fringy contributors in recent seasons were the jumping-off point for what eventually became the Los Angeles Dodgers’ winter retooling.
The surprise trade involving both players during Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings last December was just one in a whirlwind of offseason transactions by the franchise’s new front office, and it appeared to improve the team once all the deals were completed.
As the Miami Marlins saw it, they made an impact move to win this season. Gordon was a young second baseman with valuable tools and high upside. Haren provided a veteran presence to a rotation full of 20-somethings. The duo represented the organization’s latest foray into win-now mode.
While it is highly unlikely the Dodgers are regretting the trade—they eventually turned the deal into their Howie Kendrick acquisition—Gordon and Haren are doing their best to at least show the Dodgers’ new brass, and all of baseball, they still have plenty of value.
Making things better for the Marlins is the fact that the Dodgers also sent the Marlins $12.5 million in the deal, enough to cover the $10 million owed to Haren and the $2.5 million going to Gordon this season.
The Marlins start a three-game series in Los Angeles on Monday, with Gordon set to be at the top of the lineup and Haren slated to pitch Tuesday.
Gordon has been the steal of the trade through the first 32 games of Miami’s season, becoming arguably the best five-week player in the majors free of charge to his new club.
Gordon is first in the majors in both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs WAR. He also ended the weekend leading the majors with a .439 average and 54 hits. He is second in the majors with a .462 OBP and his .999 OPS is 11th.
And, of course, his speed has not slumped. Gordon is second in the majors with 12 stolen bases, a category he led the majors in last season.
For comparison’s sake, Kendrick is 62nd in FanGraphs WAR, though his .288/.358/.459 slash line is quite respectable.
Part of the reason the Dodgers felt Gordon was expendable was because after a strong first half that earned him his first All-Star nod, Gordon’s post-All-Star break line dipped to .284/.300/.348. Gordon has acknowledged he got tired at the end of last season, partly because he did not have much of an offseason once the Dodgers decided to send him to winter ball after the 2013 season.
“I think this is kind of a fresh start for him,” Haren told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times regarding Gordon. “I've been traded many times. You always kind of get a chip on your shoulder. You want to prove the other team wrong.”
For Gordon, he’s just doing what he has always done. And while a drop-off is expected as the season drags on, it is possible that at age 27 and in his fifth major league season, Gordon is finally coming into his own as an offensive weapon.
“They just told me to be Dee,” Gordon told Shaikin. “Just go play. That's it.”
As for Haren, it seemed the Dodgers wanted nothing to do with him once the new front office was in place. Despite stretches of effectiveness in 2014, Haren finished with a 4.02 ERA and 4.09 FIP. His 87 ERA-plus meant he was below the league average, but his 186 innings pitched meant his option for 2015 kicked in, as did his $10 million salary.
But the Dodgers did not value him enough to keep him in their rotation, so they are essentially paying him to pitch for the Marlins, although it must be acknowledged that the Dodgers did so in part to pry pitching prospect Andrew Heaney from Miami, who they then flipped for Kendrick.
Haren didn’t mind the trade, but he wanted to say on the West Coast. Rather than pitch for the Marlins, Haren contemplated retirement as the Marlins attempted to trade him back west. But ultimately a deal could not be struck and Haren decided to play and collect that $10 million.
Through six starts this season, Haren is 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA and 149 ERA-plus, easily the team’s best starter. However, his 4.62 FIP is among the worst in the National League, so it’s possible a correction is coming at some point.
For now, though, Haren is enjoying the success, which literally comes at the Dodgers’ expense as they now find themselves struggling to find pitching depth because of injuries.
“The Dodgers paid me to go away, so…” a smiling Haren told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
The Marlins are still struggling to get to .500 while the Dodgers have a 4.5-game lead in the NL West. Still, what Gordon and Haren have done to this point has most likely gotten the Dodgers’ attention. The rest of the season will tell if those two players can make their old organization actually regret the trade.
All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.