Alex Gordon’s Date With the Brinks Truck
By Brian Henry
Alex Gordon will be a Royal for 2015, and he has said he will be a Royal in 2016 as well, or maybe not. The option itself is too little to make sense for him unless this year goes horribly wrong, and Gordon should be a Royals for life not just through 2016. Instead of worrying about the option year I think it is time for the Royals front office to plant their flag as a team willing to sign a large contract for a player who truly deserves it.
Hunter has already discussed Gordon as an extension candidate, so I don’t want to go over that ground again. To avoid that I want to start up front with his free agent value in my opinion and spend the rest of this time talking about why the Royals should sign him more than what amount they should sign him for. If he is a free agent, and even if his production falls back to 2013 levels rather than last year’s, I think the starting price is going to be 5 years and $100 million.
Now let’s talk about why Alex Gordon is worth a large amount of money to the Royals, why he is a good gamble to take, and why he is exactly the sort of face you want for an organization. First off, he is a very disciplined and hard working. It is incredibly easy to find stories about him and his dedication to baseball. This makes it less likely that he will get out of shape and start playing poorly before his time, and it is a great example for younger players on the team for what it takes to be a great player.
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The second reason he is a good gamble is that he is athletic. Billy Butler would have been a riskier long-term sign even if his production levels hadn’t deteriorated the last couple of years. Body type matters for baseball players as they age. Alex Gordon is a much safer bet than many to remain effective into his mid or even late 30s a la Torii Hunter, who even put up a career year when he turned 38.
Those two things lead me to my third. Alex may not just end up being a great Royal, but he has an outside shot at turning into a Hall of Famer. His rough start ate up some key years that will likely keep him from the distinction, and yet if he can extend his peak a few more years, be productive into his late 30s, and maybe have a career year late it is not out of the realm of possibility. I don’t want to spend a lot of this article here since the odds are still stacked against him, but it could be an interesting argument in a few years.
My fourth reason is that he is local, in a couple of ways. Alex Gordon of course grew up about a four hour drive from The K in Lincoln, Nebraska. He then went to college in his home town before landing in KC where he has set up his life. Gordon is active in the community to the point of being nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award a couple of years ago. This is a guy from our part of the country, and a good person. We want to root for people like Alex Gordon.
Finally, Gordon is worth the money. The Royals stuck with Gordon through some struggles so they deserve some of the excess value they have gotten out of his current extension. So far in his career, Gordon has taken home $28.8 million from David Glass. Fangraphs has his on field value by WAR at $128.5 million. That is a pretty great return on investment. Even if Gordon doesn’t quite perform up to expectation on a new contract the Royals are going to end up positive in their relationship with him. My guess though, is that every penny they pay him is going to be worth it.
This is a rare situation where a hometown discount is a possibility for a player. If Alex Gordon really was considering picking up an option at a figure that under-values him it shows just how much he wants to be here, and I think I can speak for everyone in Kansas City in saying that the feeling is mutual. Will a large contract for Gordon constrain the Royals payroll, sure. Next season either Wade Davis or Greg Holland should not be here, and if you add their salary to Gordon’s for this year you are somewhere near the mark. Why not make a lifetime Royal of a good player who can exemplify what this organization is about.