Though clubs are prohibited from signing free agents who were on big league rosters last season during the lockout, they are allowed to sign players who weren't in the majors in 2021 to minor league contracts. And the Nationals took advantage of that Saturday night, striking a deal with veteran infielder Dee Strange-Gordon, a source familiar with the signing confirmed.
Strange-Gordon, who appeared in 1,002 big league games with the Dodgers, Marlins and Mariners from 2011-20 but spent 2021 bouncing around Triple-A affiliates, receives a non-guaranteed contract with the Nationals, but an invitation to spring training and a chance to make the opening day roster.
The 33-year-old, a two-time All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner, and the 2015 National League batting and stolen base champion, certainly will bring more experience to West Palm Beach than most of the players who will be participating in a revamped camp. But his inability to reach the majors this season despite opportunities with four different National League Central clubs is a red flag his best days may be well behind him now.
After batting just .200/.268/.213 in 33 games with Seattle in 2020 and having his $14 million contract option bought out, Strange-Gordon became a baseball nomad this year. He spent spring training with the Reds, but was released in late March. He signed with the Brewers, but was released after only 10 games at Triple-A Nashville. Picked up by the Cubs, he appeared in 27 games at Triple-A Iowa before opting out in July. He then spent a few weeks with the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis before opting out August 1, ending his season.
The son of former big league closer Tom Gordon, Dee spent most of his career using only his father's surname but in 2020 announced he had changed his name to honor his mother, DeVona Denise Strange, who was shot and killed when he was a child.
Strange-Gordon has had an eventful career filled with highs and lows. Selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, he debuted in 2011 and spent three seasons as a part-time player known more for baserunning prowess than offensive skill.
But he hit .289/.326/.378 with a league-leading 64 stolen bases in 2014 to earn his first All-Star nod and even some MVP votes. Then after he was traded with Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas to the Marlins for Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher, Andrew Heaney and KikÃ© HernÃ¡ndez, he enjoyed the best season of his career in 2015, batting an NL-best .333 with 205 hits, 58 stolen bases and a .776 OPS.
That breakthrough season earned Strange-Gordon a five-year, $50 million extension from Miami, but that was soon followed by an 80-game suspension after he tested positive for exogenous testosterone and clostebol. Strange-Gordon returned to the active roster later in the season after serving his suspension and memorably hit his lone home run of the 2016 season to lead off the Marlins' first game after staff ace JosÃ© FernÃ¡ndez's death.
Strange-Gordon put up strong numbers (.308/.341/.375 with a league-leading 60 stolen bases) again in 2017, then was traded to the Mariners after the season. He hasn't been the same player since.
Primarily a second baseman throughout his career, Strange-Gordon has also played shortstop, and in Seattle even saw time in left field. It remains to be seen how he would be used by the Nationals, who signed veteran second baseman CÃ©sar HernÃ¡ndez to a $4 million guaranteed contract just before the lockout began, re-signed shortstop Alcides Escobar for $1 million after the season ended and still have prospects Luis GarcÃa and Carter Kieboom seeking playing time in the infield.
Strange-Gordon's deal with the Nationals was first reported by ESPN.