Amidst the celebration of the recently acquired World Series crown, the free agency exchange has officially opened in Kansas City and across the league. The first two players have already been dropped off of the Kansas City Royals roster as Jeremy Guthrie and Alex Rios have had their options declined and have become free agents.
When it comes to possible re-signings for the Royals, Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist are the free agents that truly stick out. Each of these two men stands great team leadership, offensive production and defensive reliability; but when it comes down to it, the Royals need to make Zobrist their #1 priority.
Although Gordon has been with the team since 2007, Zobrist did more for the Royals in his 3 months with the ball club than Gordon did the whole year (yes, Gordo was hurt, but still). When Zobrist was acquired on July 28, the Royals knew that they had gotten an offensive heavy bat and a “good” defensive glove, but GM Dayton Moore and Manager Ned Yost never expected the output that he would provide.
After being acquired and joining the team in August, Zobrist posted massive numbers that month, posting a .343/.433/.539 batting line with four home runs, 12 RBI and 17 walks. While Gordon was out with a groin tear, Zobrist made the most of his chances in left field and second base. Royals fans immediately fell in love with Big Ben because of his offensive production and ability to make tough defensive plays look easy; lets get this clear, he’s no Gordon or Infante on defense, but he’s good.
While the team continued to play horrible baseball in September, Zobrist seemed to fall into the slump, posting a .246/.316/.402 batting line and driving in only nine runs. Gordon returned in September and posted a batting line of .250/.327/.365 and had nine RBI as well.
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While their performances in September may have been clones of one another, the postseason stats for the two are stacked in the direction of Zobrist, who put on the performance of a lifetime throughout the Kansas City Royals’ World Series run. During the postseason, Zobrist hit .303 and drove in nine. With the .303 average comes a .365 OBP due to his 8 playoff walks. His team-leading eight doubles are four more than Gordon, who was tied for second in the postseason. Zobrist and Gordon both had four home runs, but, of course, none are more important than Gordon’s World Series Game 1 tying home run in the bottom of the 9th inning. Zobrist posted 20 postseason hits, 13 more than Gordon and just 3 behind the team leading Alcides Escobar.
Sure, Gordon is a Kansas City staple, but the time has come to weigh the pros and cons of each player as both will want immense amounts of money, even as their ages become a concern. No matter where Zobrist plays, his defense will never live up to Platinum Glover Gordon’s, but Zobrist made some great plays during the season and postseason. Big Z obviously rules the postseason battle between the two and not only did Zobrist make big plays, but he got on base at key points in games. His popup single in the 7th inning of ALCS Game 2 start sparked a 5-run 7th-inning rally. When it came to starting rallies and getting on base, Big Ben dominated.
Gordon has already opted to become a free agent and Zobrist is already a free agent. Though Zobrist says that he “would love to return to Kansas City,” he also told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that Gordon should be the Royals’ top priority this offseason. Zobrist, 34, and Gordon, 31, will both be asking for significant contracts, but the Kansas City Royals should focus on Zobrist despite his adamant stance that the team should sign Gordon instead.