SEATTLE -- Dee Gordon has never played center field in his Major League career. Never played any outfield in his life, for that matter, other than about a dozen Dominican Winter League games four years ago.But Jerry Dipoto believes Gordon is perfectly suited to play center field for Seattle while
SEATTLE -- Dee Gordon has never played center field in his Major League career. Never played any outfield in his life, for that matter, other than about a dozen Dominican Winter League games four years ago.
But Jerry Dipoto believes Gordon is perfectly suited to play center field for Seattle while Robinson Cano continues to man second base, which is why the general manager engineered the surprising trade with the Marlins for the two-time National League All-Star second baseman on Thursday.
What makes Dipoto believe the move to center will work?
"Just the athlete," Dipoto said. "When we go through our data, his first-step acceleration is about as good as anybody in the league. We have him in top three in MLB in those categories, and the two people ahead of him are center fielders.
• Dee has the speed to play outfield
"He has that explosive speed that resonates at that position, and we have a future Hall of Famer at second base. This was a way we could be creative and add that impactful athlete."
Indeed, per Statcast™, Gordon's sprint speed of 29.7 feet per second ranks fourth in MLB, and the three ahead of him are all center fielders -- Byron Buxton of the Twins, Billy Hamilton of the Reds and rookie Bradley Zimmer of the Indians.
Gordon led the Majors in ground-ball hits last season with 101. He posted 119 home-to-first clock times of sub-4 seconds, the most in the Majors and well ahead of Hamilton's runner-up 65. Gordon's fastest home-to-first clock time of 3.49 seconds was sixth-best in the Majors.
So, yeah, Gordon can fly. Now he just needs to learn how to fly in center field, and he's wasting no time looking for help. The 29-year-old said he'd already texted Orlando-area neighbor Ken Griffey Jr. and is waiting for a call back from the Mariners' Hall of Fame center fielder.
"We've all tried the Griffey catch on the wall in center field," Gordon said. "Especially shagging with my dad [longtime pitcher Tom Gordon] when he was in the big leagues. Junior has been nothing but great to me my whole life. I see him and his wife from time to time riding around in our community."
Dipoto said Gordon won't be shifted around defensively next year. The plan is to put him in center from Day 1 and let him get comfortable as quickly as possible.
"I think it's important to give him a chance to sink his teeth into a position and play it," Dipoto said. "He's moved around so much, from shortstop to second, and now we're asking him to move to center field. We've seen him play center in winter ball, and we're very satisfied he can do it."
On his Wheelhouse Podcast on Thursday, Dipoto said he believes Gordon's arm will play well in center field and naturally get stronger as he adjusts.
"It happens as you lengthen your arm out," Dipoto said. "Second base is just a shorter arm stroke. Shortstop was a little longer. A shortstop's arm translates to just about anywhere on the field, because the throws they have to make are more dynamic than the throws made just about anywhere else.
"The outfielder gets a chance to lengthen his arm out, and it's a longer release. So in effect, as you get more familiar with the lengthy release and timing of making a throw, it's conceivable your arm is going to play up a half grade or full grade on a scouting scale, just simply through the slight alteration in your throwing mechanics."
Gordon earned NL Gold Glove honors at second base in 2015 for the Marlins after transitioning from shortstop a year earlier in his final season with the Dodgers. He told Dipoto his goal now will be to earn a Gold Glove in center field.
"I was definitely shocked," Gordon said of being told he'd be moving to the outfield. "But I'm a team player, and that's what I've got to do for the Seattle Mariners and that's what is best for them. I'll talk to Jerry and my manager and coaches and see what the best routes are for me and learn it on the fly and use my athleticism with the guys. At the end of the day, it's about getting outs, and I'll do my best to help do that."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.