Over the last month since the Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series, pundits and KC Royals fans have been going back and forth over whether the team was more likely to bring back left fielder Alex Gordon (age 32) or utility man/second baseman Ben Zobrist (age 35).
According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, latest rumors have the Kansas City Royals falling out of the Ben Zobrist auction:
With pretty much every team in major-league baseball kicking the tires on Zobrist, that result doesn’t seem surprising. Meanwhile, Fangraphs.com’s Craig Edwards asserts that Alex Gordon figures to be a free-agent bargain—even if he’s in for close to a $100 million payday.
Edwards selected a group of career comps for Alex Gordon by finding players with similar production from age 27 through age 31. Edwards found that this group averaged 15.4 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) through age 36 and estimated that number to be Gordon’s expected value over four years. Alex Gordon would be worth $136.5 million given that production.
Edwards also estimated Gordon’s future value by applying a rather aggressive .5 WAR per season age depreciation curve, to arrive at much more modest five-year value of 12.4 wins above replacement estimate for Gordon. Even at that more pessimistic projection, Edwards sees Gordon being worth $108 million, presuming a starting $8 million per WAR market value this winter.
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With Alex Gordon’s crowd estimate for what he will command in the market place sitting at five-years, $90 million, Gordon might be the best free-agent value the KC Royals can expect to find if they hope to retain one of their main pieces (Johnny Cueto, Alex Gordon, Ben Zobrist) this winter.
By comparison, Fangraphs.com analyst Dave Cameron estimated a floor value of four-years/$63 million for Ben Zobrist. However, he noted that the floor estimate included a pessimistic view of Zobrist defensive prowess. If you presume that Zobrist’s defensive struggles in 2015 were injury, rather than age-related, he believed a team could think Ben Zobrist is worth $80 million over four years.
Since free-agent prices often reflect the team with the most positive assessment of a player’s projected value, Ben Zobrist’s offers could zoom past the $60 million mark.
If this scenario plays out, as it seems to be doing, then the KC Royals would be better off signing the younger Alex Gordon (32 compared to Zobrist’s 35), who is coming off a groin pull rather than knee surgery.
While a $90 million deal will far exceed the largest contract in Kansas City Royals history (5-year, $55 million deal that Dayton Moore gave Gil Meche in 2007), it figures to be the best value on a premier player the team is likely to find.