Moving Dee Gordon off shortstop seems like a bad idea because it probably is

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The Dodgers have talked about moving Dee Gordon off shortstop and into the outfield, according to Dylan Hernandez.

The Dodgers have talked about moving the fleet-footed Gordon to the outfield but appear inclined to keep him at shortstop for now. Gordon figures to start the season at triple-A Albuquerque.

“I hate to give up on him at short,” Mattingly said.

Dylan sort of snuck that tidbit in there, but it’s interesting information because teams that were rumored to be interested in trading for him had the same idea.

At the time, while analyzing those deals, I briefly touched on why I thought moving him would be a bad idea:

I’m not seeing the upside in moving him to the outfield. The potential for him to be an MLB regular contributor came with the value of him playing shortstop, where his bat could be decidedly below average but he could still have value. In center or, even worse, left or right, he would basically be relegated to the upside of a poor man’s Juan Pierre. Say what you want about Pierre, but Gordon’s talent with the bat isn’t anywhere close to Pierre’s right now, and I’m not sure it’ll ever get there.

The general point still stands now.

In recent memory, the only player I can think of that made the same transition that Dee is attempting is B.J. Upton, and while he perhaps hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations some had for him, he’s absolutely been a consistent 3-4 WAR player. They both share the traits of being toolsy, error-prone shortstops, so the move seems to make some sense for Dee defensively. Of course, the difference is that B.J. has a 107 wRC+ in his MLB career, whereas the last time Dee has topped 97 wRC+ in the minors was back in 2009 at A-ball. Hence, I have a general skepticism about this outfield move unless Dee’s bat can improve significantly.

Rather than unrealistically projecting a 125-175 point jump in OPS, perhaps a better goal would be to look at a Juan Pierre-esque performance offensively, right? Well, if that’s the case, then Dee has the tall task of needing to become an elite center fielder. In order to be a league-average regular (~2.0 WAR), he would have to be about a +10 run defender in center, and that’s assuming a bounceback offensively to an OPS around .630 or so. The problem with that goal is only two or three players are at that level in center field, so it’s a long-shot since he’s already 25, and learning a new position isn’t as simple as being fast and athletic.

While it’s conceivable that Dee could start hitting significantly better or excel defensively in center (or some combination of the two), adding even more moving parts to his already multi-faceted struggles hardly seems like a viable solution to his woes. After all, B.J. moved off short to mask a deficiency in one part of his game, while Dee has to fix basically everything. As such, the best bet for the Dodgers figures to be hoping that he hits like Juan Pierre at short and learns to use his defensive tools to become around average. It may be a long-shot at this point, but it’s still a better shot than he would have roaming the outfield.

About Chad Moriyama

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