The Marlins and Twins have agreed to a deal that will send infielder/outfielder Nick Gordon to Miami in exchange for left-hander Steven Okert. FanSided’s Robert Murray (X link) was the first to report Gordon was being traded to the Fish, while the Miami Herald’s Craig Mish reported (via X) that Okert was heading to Minnesota.
Gordon was the fifth overall pick of the 2014 draft, and a top prospect for much of his time in the Twins’ farm system even though his star began to dim due to injuries and struggles in the upper minors. With a career .248/.298/.361 slash line over 829 career Triple-A plate appearances, Gordon still made his MLB debut in 2021 appearing in 73 games for the Twins, and then took on a larger role with 443 PA over 136 games in 2022. Gordon earned that extra playing time by hitting .272/.316/.427 during the 2022 campaign, and his ability to play multiple positions made him a particularly valuable asset on a Minnesota team that beset by injuries.
Unfortunately, the injury bug again came for Gordon himself last year, as he fractured his right shin after fouling a ball off himself on May 17. This ended his MLB season after only 34 games, and Gordon made it back for six Triple-A games in September but wasn’t ready to return to the active roster before the end of the regular season. Gordon had been off to a tough start even before his injury, hitting only .176/.185/.319 in 93 PA.
The trade comes just a day after the results of Gordon’s arbitration hearing, and the panel sided with the Twins by deciding on a $900K salary for Gordon in 2024, rather than his desired figure of $1.25MM. Gordon is heading into his age-28 season but is still arb-controlled through the 2027 campaign as per his Super Two status. Okert offers only a bit less control, as was arb-eligible for the first of three times this winter and avoided arbitration by agreeing with the Marlins on a $1,062,500 salary for the 2024 season.
It was a little over a year ago that the Twins and Marlins lined up on the blockbuster four-player swap that sent Luis Arraez to Miami and Pablo Lopez to Minnesota. Today’s move isn’t nearly as high-profile, yet it does mark the fifth transaction between the two franchises within the last 13 months, as the Twins’ comfort level with Miami’s front office has continued even now that Peter Bendix has taken over from Kim Ng as the head of the Marlins’ baseball ops department.
Gordon has spent most of his time in the majors as a second baseman, center fielder, and right fielder, with a handful of appearances at shortstop, third base, and right field. The public defensive metrics haven’t been wowed by Gordon’s glovework at any of his positions, yet his sheer versatility makes him an interesting asset on Miami’s roster. Gordon isn’t likely to be answer to the Marlins’ needs at shortstop, though if Jon Berti ends up getting the bulk of playing time at short, Gordon might fill Berti’s old role as the chief utility option.
As Anthony Franco recently observed in a piece for MLBTR’s Front Office subscribers, the Marlins entered the offseason with quite a bit of left-handed relief depth, between Okert, Tanner Scott, A.J. Puk, and Andrew Nardi. Scott didn’t seem likely to be moved given his role as Miami’s projected closer, and unlike Okert, Scott and Puk both have minor league options remaining. Since Gordon is also out of options, this one-for-one swap helps both teams address some needs at the cost of a potentially expendable player.
A veteran of six MLB seasons with the Giants and Marlins, Okert posted a 2.89 ERA over 87 1/3 relief innings for Miami in 2021-22, with the aid of a .224 BABIP. Some course correction arrived in 2023, as Okert had a .295 BABIP and a 4.45 ERA over 58 2/3 frames, and a pretty mixed bag of peripherals. Okert’s strikeout and hard-hit ball rates were both well above average, but his walk and barrel rates were both below the league average. The 32-year-old Okert is also an extreme fly ball pitcher, so his effectiveness has tended to hinge on how well he fares at keeping the ball in the park.
On the plus side, Okert has good numbers against both left-handed and right-handed batters, and he has been a workhorse with 124 appearances over the last two seasons. He’ll now join Caleb Thielbar as the top southpaw options in Minnesota’s very solid relief corps, and rookie Kody Funderburk provides another interesting left-handed arm who could be shuttled back and forth from Triple-A as circumstances dictate.
Between payroll cuts and concerns over their TV contract, the Twins’ offseason has only started to kick into high gear over the last couple of weeks. Minnesota has now dealt both Jorge Polanco and Gordon in an effort to upgrade its pitching depth at the expense of a somewhat crowded group of position players, particularly within the infield. Even without Gordon, Willi Castro and Kyle Farmer can pick up the utilityman slack on the Twins’ roster, and top prospects Austin Martin and Brooks Lee are both expected to make their MLB debuts in 2024.