After a season where he won a Gold Glove and produced as one of the most valuable players in baseball, the Royals have finally reached a contract extension with Alex Gordon after lengthy negotiations this offseason.
The breakdown of the contract will pay Gordon as follows:
- 2012: $6 million
- 2013: $9 million
- 2014: $10 million
- 2015: $12.5 million
- 2016 (a player option): $12.5 million
Gordon, as many know, is the former second overall pick in the 2005 draft and an NCAA and Minor League Baseball player of the year award winner. An impressive 2006 in Double A led to his skipping a level and making his major league debut on opening day 2007. He struggled with a .232/.321/.358 line in the first half as a rookie. In the second half of that season, his power improved and he finished with a .264/.305/.472 line with 32 extra base hits.
While Gordon has had a couple of rough seasons after injuries in 2009 and 2010, many forget that he was on his way to developing about as planned offensively. From June 1, 2007 to the end of 2008, he hit .266/.337/.445/.782 in 975 plate appearances. Still work to do, but far from the supposed bust he was sometimes labeled. He lost a lot of 2009 to recovery from labrum surgery, and a broken thumb in spring training in 2010 got his season off to a wrong step, but after busting Triple A pitching, he came back at the end of 2010 and ended up 35 extra base hits in 59 at bats.
He broke out in 2011 due to a few factors in my mind: he made adjustments to put more balls in play against left-handers and also was more willing to go the other way. In the past, Gordon had a habit of trying to pull a lot of pitches and when you try to pull a pitch away, it has a tendency to become a ground out. His adjustment to the outfield seems to have taken some pressure off of him, so he could just go out and play. Those two combined to give him confidence* (as did the work with Kevin Seitzer and the support of Ned Yost) and most importantly, he stayed healthy all year. All the adjustments and confidence do nothing if you can’t stay on the field.
*I’m not always comfortable giving into vague terms but, while you can’t measure it, you can observe confidence. Last year, Gordon was definitely confident. In past years, his body language or his tone of voice may have betrayed such confidence, no matter what he was saying.
There’s a bit of risk in any long term deal. He’s already 28 years old and will be 32 when his player option kicks in. Gordon hasn’t been among the best in the game beyond last year, but given his pre-existing talent, the Royals felt safe giving him this deal. His background, scouting reports and work ethic allowed the Royals to feel confident in his ability to continue to hit and play the field well. This isn’t just one player making a sudden stride in one season. He’s had the pedigree to be a strong producer since dominating at the University of Nebraska. Now, he’s finally able to realize that full potential (and he’ll do so as a Royal for a few years).
Dayton Moore has now reached long term extensions with Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria, Billy Butler, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar and Gordon. He’s shown he’s willing to commit to a young player and over the years, it’s safe to guess that he’ll aggressively pursue some sort of deal with Eric Hosmer and others.