February 22, 2024

Twins trade former first-round pick Nick Gordon to Miami Marlins

The Twins continued to clean up their roster on Sunday afternoon, trading utility man and former first-rounder Nick Gordon to the Miami Marlins, according to multiple sources. In return, the Twins get left-handed reliever Steven Okert.

Previously loaded with talented infielders and utility men, Gordon is the second such player to be traded by the Twins in two weeks. The Twins also dealt Jorge Polanco to the Seattle Mariners on Jan. 29 in a deal that netted four players and $8 million in cash to help pay down the salary of pitcher Anthony DeSclafani.

Both moves help the Twins avoid what could have been a significant logjam on the infield, where the club had too much talent with not enough at-bats to go around.

Out most of last season with a fractured right shin, Gordon — who is arbitration eligible — batted .176/.185/.319 in 93 plate appearances, a disappointing follow-up to a breakout campaign.

During the 2022 season, Gordon demonstrated what he could do when finally healthy, hitting .272/.316/.427 with 28 doubles and nine home runs in 443 plate appearances after revamping his swing in the middle of the year. One of the few players to remain healthy late in the season, Gordon went from a player out of options and on the cusp of being designated for assignment early in 2022 to batting fourth down the stretch for a team that was crushed by injuries to key performers.

Gordon was expected to play a prominent role for the Twins in 2023 before he suffered what amounted to a season-ending injury when he fouled a pitch off his leg at Dodger Stadium on May 17. Though Gordon rehabbed and was ready to return in September, the Twins didn’t have enough playing time to offer because of breakout seasons by Willi Castro and Edouard Julien.

Heading into January, the Twins possessed a glut of infielders, including Polanco, Castro, Julien and Kyle Farmer. While Gordon and Castro have demonstrated they can play center field, the Twins may have struggled to find ample playing time for each. The Twins also have a talented utility man in rookie Austin Martin, who has all of his player options available unlike Gordon, which makes him easier to shuffle back and forth to Triple A.

Selected with the fifth pick in the 2014 draft, Gordon never quite broke through before 2022 following a series of injuries and health issues, including his 2020 season being wiped out by a positive COVID test.

Just as he was on the cusp of reaching the majors in 2019, dietary issues sapped Gordon of strength and weight. Shortly after his major-league debut in 2021, Gordon said he felt “lucky to be alive” after years of struggling to maintain weight.

But once he solved those issues, Gordon’s bat started to show signs of life and he added power not previously considered to be part of his game.

Similar to Gordon, Okert is out of minor-league options. The 32-year-old has a 3.70 ERA with 220 career strikeouts in 194 1/3 innings pitched. A slider-heavy pitcher, Okert played part of three seasons each for both the Marlins and San Francisco Giants.

Okert was drafted by San Francisco in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. He gives the Twins three potential left-handed relief options as he joins veteran Caleb Thielbar and rookie Kody Funderburk, who debuted last season.

Much of the Twins’ recent focus has been on adding to the bullpen. They acquired Justin Topa from Seattle in the Polanco deal and signed right-hander Jay Jackson to a big-league deal last week. The group projects to be one of the top bullpens in the American League and in all of baseball.

(Top photo: David Berding / Getty Images)