Re-signing Alex Gordon as the left fielder is an indication that the KC Royals still have no clear plan for 2020 or the future.
I hope I have been clear that there is no KC Royals player in my adult life that is more important to me than Alex Gordon. I truly think our entire final homestand of 2019 should have been a tribute to the man and all that he has accomplished in his career. However, I also believe that bringing him back for 2020 is a terrible mistake.
Alex Gordon had a decent 2019. He was nearly a league-average offensive player and he won another Gold Glove. Some of our opinions, though, of his 2019 performance are rosier than reality. Both because he performed so poorly in the three previous seasons and because his early-season performance was so good.
Through the first half of 2019, Alex was genuinely a good hitter. He slugged almost .450 and his OPS was .800. Those numbers may not be great when compared to other left fielders, but it will work.
The second half of 2019 was not as kind to Alex, though. His slugging percentage was a Nicky Lopez level .326. His OPS was .661. He reverted right back to what he had been since 2016. An excellent fielding left fielder with no pop who fights and claws to keep his On Base level just high enough that he is not embarrassing himself.
Alex Gordon’s performance right out of the gate in 2019 was almost shocking. He hit 10 homers and 23 doubles over the first half of the season. And when compared to his performance since 2016 it was especially impressive. But over the second half of 2019, he hit 3 homeruns and 8 doubles. In fact, after the first of June Alex would only hit 4 homeruns.
There was a real opportunity to send Alex out on a high note in 2019. We could have let him hear the cheers and appreciation that he so richly deserves. All at the end of an acceptable season. I fear we never see that season again from Alex. He will never slug over .400 again. I am just as certain that he never has an OPS over .700 again. And while he may still get another Gold Glove I would rather not see Alex go out struggling with the bat the way he did in 2016 through 2018.
But, even if Alex somehow repeats 2019 and has a reasonably acceptable season for a left fielder it would still make no sense to bring him back. I would even suggest it would make more sense to take a chance on a short-term deal with a corner outfielder like Yasiel Puig than bringing back Alex Gordon for 2020. Allow me to explain.
The KC Royals have been incredibly clear, through their actions this offseason, that they are not trying to win games in 2020. They are, let us hope, at least hoping to develop some big-league talent and find out whether our younger players have what it takes to become big league contributors for the near future.
The problem with having Alex Gordon in front of those young guys is that no matter how badly he plays we are still going to keep sending him out there. If Alex is batting .190 after two months he will still be getting 3-4 starts per week, at a minimum. And we all know that is the case.
Alex Gordon is a demigod in Kauffman Stadium, and rightly so. First-year manager Mike Matheny is more likely to begin genuflecting in Alex Gordon’s presence than he is to have him riding the bench for months so that Brett Phillips can get a fair shot. It will ultimately be detrimental to the team’s development.
There are going to be a lot of decisions throughout this season that the KC Royals will have to make illustrating whether they are committed to rebuilding with young players or if they are just lost at sea and treading water. This is merely the first one. The correct decision is to bring back the most beloved left fielder in team history. For one day. An Alex Gordon Day. Unveil a statue and we can all have a joyous cry together. Do not bring him back to play left field every day. Please.