Dee Gordon appears to be moving from second base to center field, and the veteran speedster is embracing the change.In a surprising trade on Thursday night, Gordon was shipped from Miami to the Mariners in exchange for three prospects and $1 million in international bonus pool money. But with Seattle's
Dee Gordon appears to be moving from second base to center field, and the veteran speedster is embracing the change.
In a surprising trade on Thursday night, Gordon was shipped from Miami to the Mariners in exchange for three prospects and $1 million in international bonus pool money. But with Seattle's established infield -- second baseman Robinson Cano, shortstop Jean Segura and third baseman Kyle Seager -- Gordon is being asked to move from second to center, where his elite speed and athleticism could play.
This will be Gordon's second major position change, having moved from shortstop to second after the 2013 season, and winning a National League Gold Glove Award at his converted spot in '15. In light of this latest transition, let's take a look at other significant position changes of the past 30 years, broken up into three tiers based on difficulty of transition.
Movement in the middle
Perhaps no player embodies the versatility of this list more than Yount, who is one of only three players to win an MVP Award at multiple positions, along with Hank Greenberg (first base and left field) and Alex Rodriguez (shortstop and third). The third overall Draft pick by the Brewers in 1973, Yount was one of the game's few power-hitting shortstops in his prime. In 1982, he hit 29 homers and won the American League MVP Award, becoming just the fourth AL shortstop to be receive the honor.
Shoulder surgeries forced Yount to the outfield in 1985 -- he had never played any other position but shortstop since he was 9 years old -- and remained an elite hitter, posting a .285/.356/.433 slash line over his final nine seasons and winning another AL MVP Award in '89. Along the way, he became the third-youngest player to join the 3,000 hit club (at 36, behind only Hank Aaron and Ty Cobb) and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in '99.
An All-Star catcher -- the position at which he played his first four MLB seasons -- Biggio moved to second base in 1992 in what may have made a Hall of Fame career. Coming off a year in which he led all catchers with a .295 batting average, and in the midst of a major rebuild in Houston, Astros management -- led by Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who was coaching in Houston -- approached Biggio about a transition to second base, a position he'd never played.
Over the next 10 seasons, Biggio was a six-time All-Star, and ranked among the MLB leaders at the position in batting average (second, .297), on-base percentage (second, .393), slugging (third, .455), home runs (fourth, 156), RBIs (fourth, 658) and stolen bases (fifth, 294), proving to be a beacon of consistency. He is the only player in NL history to win a Silver Slugger Award at both catcher and second base.
One of the best players who isn't in Cooperstown, Murphy broke into the Majors as a catcher, moved to first base after injuring his knee, then to center field to best utilize his speed. In a move he said saved his career, Murphy went on to win five Gold Glove Awards in the outfield and back-to-back NL MVP Awards in 1982 and '83, becoming, at the time, the youngest player in history to do so, at ages 26 and 27. From '80 -- the year he moved to the outfield -- to '90, Murphy led the Majors in homers (332) and ranked second in RBIs (1,012), behind only Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.
Shuffling the corners
Among the quirkiest of position changes on this list was by Jones, who's likely going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer next summer, but perhaps not for his defense during a two-year stint in left field, where he was moved to when the Braves signed free agent Vinny Castilla ahead of the 2002 season. The entire experiment wasn't exactly a success, as Castilla posted a .694 OPS in two years with Atlanta and Jones never looked fully comfortable in left. After Castilla's two-year contract expired, Jones moved back to third, was an All-Star three more times and won the NL batting title in '08. It should be noted that Jones made it to the big leagues as a shortstop in 1993 before missing all of the next season with a knee injury.
Pujols played all over, mostly left field and some third base, before finally settling at first base full-time in 2004, One of the game's all-time great hitters, he went on to win a pair of Gold Glove Awards at first, and his power numbers took off. He's hit 40 homers or more in six seasons since moving to first, including each of his first three, also leading the Majors in OPS in three seasons and winning four Silver Slugger Awards.
A four-time All-Star at second base, Soriano was the game's preeminent power hitter at the position from 2002-05, hitting 141 homers to lead all second basemen in that four-year stretch between stints with the Yankees and Rangers. A trade to the Nationals, who had Jose Vidro at second, before the '06 season forced Soriano to move to left field, which he was initially reluctant to do. However, after fulfilling his role there in one season in Washington, Soriano signed a lucrative, $136 million contract with the Cubs to play left. He was an All-Star in each of his first two seasons in Chicago, but his production tapered off, both offensively and defensively, in part due to injuries.
Braun burst onto the MLB scene in 2007, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award while clubbing 34 homers and leading the NL with a .634 slugging percentage . However, his season was partially marred by a porous showing at third base, where he committed 26 errors -- an MLB high at any position that year. (Only two other third basemen have committed more errors in a season since.) With arguably the strongest arm in the Brewers' organization, the club moved the longtime infielder to left field, and the results have been much better. He hasn't won a Gold Glove Award, but he's been worth 24 DRS in left since '08.
Sliding over to third
Perhaps no positional change was as high-profile as Rodriguez's ahead of the '04 season. It followed one of the biggest trades in baseball history, involved two potential Hall of Famers and had New York hype. Rodriguez was a two-time Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop and hit 40 or more homers in six seasons before moving to third to account for incumbent Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. Rodriguez maintained elite power numbers, averaging 38 homers from 2004-10, and he won two more AL MVP Awards.
If it weren't for Rodriguez, Ripken may have been the most prominent shortstop to move to the hot corner. He did so for good after the 1996 season, ending a record streak of 2,216 consecutive games started at short. By this point, Ripken was 35 and in the twilight of his career. He was still an All-Star over his final five seasons, all at third, posting a .272/.322/.423 slash line, which was below his career mark of .276/.340/.447
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.