Mariners acquire Dee Gordon with an eye on acquiring Japanese superstar Shohei Otani

Somewhere between Jerry Dipoto’s effervescent roster scheming and Giancarlo Stanton’s career dilemma and Derek Jeter’s paper debt and Shohei Ohtani’s budding U.S. career and MLB’s rules on international spending stood Dee Gordon, innocent bystander (and second baseman) until Thursday afternoon.

In an otherwise sedentary early going to baseball’s offseason (through no fault of the Seattle Mariners general manager), Dipoto traded three minor leaguers to the Miami Marlins for Gordon, the former batting champion owed $38 million over the next three seasons. As the Mariners already have a second baseman – Robinson Cano, due $24 million annually through 2023 – the assumption is Gordon will become a center fielder.

The Mariners will pay all of Gordon’s salary. The Marlins also sent $1 million in international bonus pool money to the Mariners, who just Wednesday night traded a minor-league catcher to the Minnesota Twins for another $1 million in international money. Those two trades brought their total – at the moment – to $3.56 million, a few thousand more than the Texas Rangers, which would hardly be important to anyone except it suddenly seems important to everyone, or certainly everyone with still a stake in Ohtani.

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Shohei Ohtani through his career
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Shohei Ohtani through his career
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 31: Shohei Otani of Japan reacts in the third inning during the 18U Baseball World Championship Group B match between Canada and Japan at Mokdong Stadium on August 31, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 31: Shohei Otani of Japan pitches in the second inning during the 18U Baseball World Championship Group B match between Canada and Japan at Mokdong Stadium on August 31, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
This picture taken on July 26, 2012 shows Shohei Otani, an 18-year-old Hanamaki Higashi High School studentm after he lost a baseball game the northern Japanese city of Morioka, Iwate prefecture. It was reported on October 21, 2012 that Otani has decided to try his hand in the Major Leagues in the US, making the jump after his high school graduation. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 06: Shohei Otani of Japan looks on in the ninth inning during the 18U Baseball World Championship match between Japan and South Korea at Mokdong Stadium on September 6, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 07: Cavan Biggio of United States tags out Shohei Otani of Japan as he slides into first base in the fifth inning during the U18 Baseball World Championship match between Japan and the United States at Mokdong stadium on September 7, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Japan's pitcher Shohei Otani, who both pitches and hits for the Nippon Ham Fighters, attends a practice session before an exhibition baseball game against U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Stars in Tokyo November 14, 2014. Otani has made waves in Japan by throwing strikes and smashing home runs for the Nippon Ham Fighters, but the 'Double Sworded Samurai' may have to give up one of his weapons if he is to realise his dream of making it big in Major League Baseball. Picture taken November 14, 2014. To match story BASEBALL-JAPAN/OTANI REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL HEADSHOT)
Japan's pitcher Shohei Otani, who both pitches and hits for the Nippon Ham Fighters, attends a practice session before an exhibition baseball game against U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Stars in Tokyo November 14, 2014. Otani has made waves in Japan by throwing strikes and smashing home runs for the Nippon Ham Fighters, but the 'Double Sworded Samurai' may have to give up one of his weapons if he is to realise his dream of making it big in Major League Baseball. Picture taken November 14, 2014. To match story BASEBALL-JAPAN/OTANI REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 18: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani #16 of Samurai Japan pitches in the first inning during the game five of Samurai Japan and MLB All Stars at Sapporo Dome on November 18, 2014 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 21: (L-R) Former New York Yankee players Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, and Shohei Otani of Nippnham pose for photographers during the Tomodachi Charity Baseball Game on March 21, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 08: Shohei Otani #16 of Japan is interviewed after his team's 5-0 win in the WBSC Premier 12 match between Japan and South Korea at the Sapporo Dome on November 8, 2015 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani (R) #16 of Japan high fives with infielder Nobuhiro Matsuda (L) #3 after the top of sixth inning during the WBSC Premier 12 semi final match between South Korea and Japan at the Tokyo Dome on November 19, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Japan's pitcher Shohei Otani hurls against South Korean batter during the semi final of the Premier 12 baseball tournament in Tokyo. South Korea defeated Japan 4-3. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRES JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 10: Shohei Otani of Japan bats during the international friendly match between Japan and Mexico at the Tokyo Dome on November 10, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sports Nippon/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 12: Shohei Otani of Japan bats during the international friendly match between Japan and Netherlands at the Tokyo Dome on November 12, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sports Nippon/Getty Images)
Japanese baseball player Shohei Otani delivers his speech during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on November 11, 2017. Baseball superstar Otani voiced in the press conference his wish to continue playing both on the mound and at the plate in the US, saying he has not given up either pitching or batting. / AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / STR / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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The interwoven and yet not entirely complex being that delivered an outfielder’s glove to Gordon’s doorstep, his experience with one of those limited to 13 games in the Dominican winter league four years ago, starts of course with the Marlins.

After rescuing the franchise from Jeffrey Loria, new ownership, Jeter out in front, seems determined to cleave the payroll, perhaps by a lot. That started with Stanton, currently with an opportunity to waive his no-trade protection in order to play in St. Louis or San Francisco (or, perhaps, Los Angeles), and by extension get Marlins’ ownership rolling on its long-term plan. Stanton seems hesitant, as he should be, as being boinked out of town at the sharp end of a new rebuild is no way to treat an MVP. Dealing one of the team’s productive and higher-paid players in Gordon, also a good friend of Stanton’s, looks additionally like a message that if he resists a trade, Stanton will return to a team that is both unrecognizable and non-competitive, and ain’t life grand.

Then, to the Mariners, along with The Other Six, those being the teams invited to Los Angeles this week to recruit Ohtani, whose bonus is limited to allotted international pools. That was fine, it was said, because Ohtani already was passing up tens of millions of dollars in order to start his MLB dream at 23 years old. The Texas Rangers had the most pool money, at roughly $3.5 million. Still, it was said, a negligible advantage, for the above reasons. Ohtani sought opportunity and comfort and a place to ply his two-way skills first. Then, as Ohtani mulled his seven options, the Mariners traded for $1 million to bring their total to $2.56 million. Then the Los Angeles Angels traded for another $1 million (a week after acquiring $1.2 million from the Atlanta Braves), so they had $2.32 million to offer. Then the Mariners added another $1 million, which brought them to $3.56 million. And what appeared to be insignificant had the looks of a bidding war. (The four National League teams alive – Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs – are sitting at or around $300,000.) It remains to be seen whether Gordon, a fine player who the Marlins didn’t want to pay anymore, came with the international money or vice versa.

So Gordon will go to Seattle, earnestly learn his new craft, and perhaps become a capable center fielder, even perhaps while standing to the right of Shohei Ohtani. And the Marlins, with any luck, will pay down their debt at the cost of a good portion of their community’s goodwill, whatever was left of it. And Stanton, with any luck, will find happiness and decorum in a new town, perhaps his hometown. And, as for The Other Six, they may have been left behind in a bidding war few of them knew existed, right up until Dee Gordon got swept up in it all.

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The top 30 free agents in the MLB
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The top 30 free agents in the MLB
J.D. Martinez, RF

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Shohei Otani, RHP/OF

(Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

Alex Avila, C

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Tyler Chatwood, RHP

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

CC Sabathia, LHP

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Yu Darvish, RHP

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Carlos Gonzalez, RF

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Eduardo Nunez, IF

(Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Greg Holland, RHP

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Brandon Kintzler, RHP

(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Andrew Cashner, RHP

(Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Lance Lynn, RHP

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Jay Bruce, RF

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Neil Walker, 2B

(Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images)

Carlos Gomez, CF

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tony Watson, LHP

(Photo by LG Patterson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Jonathan Lucroy, C

(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pat Neshek, RHP

(Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Jake Arrieta, RHP

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Addison Reed, RHP

(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Carlos Santana, 1B

(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Mike Moustakas, 3B

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Logan Morrison, 3B

(Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images)

Lorenzo Cain, CF

(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jake McGee, LHP

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Zack Cozart, SS

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Wade Davis, RHP

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Alex Cobb, RHP

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Eric Hosmer, 1B

(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

Todd Frazier, 3B

(Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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