For Nick Gordon, today had to be a relief. At the end of a long road since testing positive for COVID-19 during the intake process, he has finally been cleared and is able to join his teammates. He’ll be at the Twins’ facility in Fort Myers for a bit, before presumably joining the alternated site in St. Paul.
Lewis Thorpe has joined the team in Cleveland as part of the taxi squad. Nick Gordon has cleared COVID-19 protocols and will start a rehab assignment in Fort Myers.— Betsy Helfand (@betsyhelfand) August 25, 2020
For Gordon, this season probably shouldn’t, and can’t be one that goes to waste. The Twins’ 2014 first round pick (fifth overall) is already perilously close to the dreaded “bust” label, and needed to make a good impression in this, his seventh professional season. Last year he spent the entire season at Triple-A Rochester, hitting well (.298/.342/.459,) but not earning even a September call-up.
On the field, he could still be an asset, in the mold of a typical utility player. His future could still contain some shortstop, and he has acquitted himself well at both middle infield positions. The Twins currently have a fairly loaded infield group, with Marwin Gonzalez, Ehire Adrianza, and Ildemaro Vargas all spelling the starters, and Willians Astudillo available on the other side of the river. So where does Gordon fit in here?
First of all, he’s been more-or-less unable to perform baseball activities in quarantine for the last six-plus weeks, so he’ll likely need at least a couple weeks before he can contribute. He’s also been recovering from an illness that is known to have some impacts on athletic performance, although how that will effect him still waits to be seen. In other words, its very unlike for him to join the Twins for awhile, if at all this year. The trade for Vargas is reflective of that reality—had Gordon been healthy all along, he likely would have had the first chance at that role.
Without the chance to see much from Gordon, a decision on his future will need to be made this winter, as he is a pending free agent. Rule 3(b) states:
“All Minor League Uniform Player Contracts between either a Major or a Minor League Club and a player who has not previously signed a contract with a Major or a Minor League Club shall be for a term of seven Minor League playing seasons.”
By my count, this means that Gordon will be a MiLB free agent, so the Twins will need to decide if they want to offer him a contract—as will the other 29 organizations. With little-to-no MLB playing time this year, that will make the decision making process more difficult, but he has a pedigree that will likely keep him in organized baseball.
So at this point, the question remains—what can he offer the Twins in the last couple weeks of the season? With Josh Donaldson likely on a similar timeline to return, it might not be much. Given the organizational depth in the infield, barring a rash of injuries, you may never see Nick Gordon in a Twins uniform outside of spring training.