That’s the diagnosis of recovery of the Grade 2 groin strain for Alex Gordon. Eight weeks.
When Gordon was carted off the field on Wednesday, I thought about George Brett. My memories are hazy, but I seem to recall him landing on the DL almost once a season when he was in his prime. Going to those games and not having Brett in the lineup felt strange. Something was missing. A void. That’s how it’s going to be with Gordon out for the next eight weeks. It will be different to look at the lineup everyday and not see his name there.
Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando are the fourth and fifth outfielders for a reason. They are the guys who can give you (hopefully) a decent game or two in place of your regulars. Play them everyday, and you risk them being exposed. Just the other day, I advocated they form a platoon to replace the corpse of Alex Rios, last seen rotting on the TOOTBLAN. Now, they will be pressed into duty covering left field.
You don’t replace an Alex Gordon. You hope someone can keep his spot warm while he’s out of the lineup, but you’re not going to replace him. Not from within. Not via a trade. It can’t be done.
Here are the leaders in fWAR since the start of the 2011 season:
Mike Trout – 34.6
Andrew McCutchen – 30.8
Miguel Cabrera – 28.7
Alex Gordon – 25.3
I’ve been making this argument for a couple of years, but Gordon is still criminally underrated in some corners of the game. (Never forget last winter when MLB Network embarked on listing the top players in the game at each position, Gordon was ranked as the fifth best left fielder in the game. Fifth!) Actually, he’s probably criminally underrated in some corners of the city. He is a complete player. Offense. Defense. Base running. And yes, the leadership by example.
This post isn’t meant to be maudlin. On Thursday afternoon, the Royals became the first team in the American League to reach 50 wins. They own the best record in the AL over the Astros by 3.5 games. This is shaping up to be a special summer in Kansas City. I have no idea what’s going to happen. The road ahead did get more difficult with the absence of Gordon, but it’s not insurmountable. The Royals hot start and subsequent solid turn through the rest of the schedule has them in a great place. You never want to lose a player of Gordon’s caliber, but if you do, you want to own the kind of record the Royals currently possess. Teams are trying to catch the Royals. They have a little over two and a half months. Good luck.
We’ve seen what will be known as the usual suspects when it comes to the trade market for replacements. Ben Zobrist was on the Royals radar certainly before the injury. You would assume he’s an option. He’s a Swiss Army Knife of a player where he could rotate between the outfield and second base. He was injured early in the year and has taken some time to find his footing. His .250/.338/.422 slash line is underwhelming when put up against his career line, but he possesses a 114 wRC+. His low batting average is fueled by a career low .253 BABIP. Zobrist takes a walk. He’s grabbing a free pass just over 12 percent of the time this year. That’s key, given this Royals team’s walk rate is historically low and Gordon was the only guy in the lineup who shows enough plate discipline to jog to first on a regular basis.
Justin Upton is another name for the Royals to consider. He’s hitting .259/.338/.434 with a 119 wRC+ for the Padres. He strikes out a ton, but will take a walk and has plenty of power potential even though his ISO has dropped to .175 this year.
A couple other names I’ve seen mentioned include Jay Bruce from Cincinnati or Carlos Gomez in Milwaukee.
Personally, I’d favor Zobrist. I don’t think the price will be insanely high for a two month rental in his case, although you always need to beware dealing with Billy Beane. As I mentioned, he could play anywhere on the field, giving Yost some great options down the stretch if Gordon can get back in the lineup at 100 percent. The Royals were in the market for an outfielder before the injury thanks to the ineptitude of Rios. Now they need two corner outfielders. That’s a massive ask for a team to fill via trade with just a couple of weeks before the deadline. The ideal situation would have them making a deal for an outfielder, then shifting whomever they acquire to right field when Gordon returns.
In the meantime, let’s take a moment to bask in the glory of Dyson’s last two days. Starting with some insane hitting and base running:
Some amazing defense:
And some more amazing defense:
The Royals have collectively stepped up in the wake of losing their leader. This team… I’ve never seen a baseball team thrive on emotion as much as the Royals. From last September and October, through their fast start in 2015, they’re an amazing group. It’s cliche, but it’s not difficult to imagine this team somehow getting stronger from this situation. Well, not technically stronger because I just spent 800 words on how you can’t replace Gordon, but you know what I mean. Just look at those videos again. In two games, Dyson has picked this team up with a pair of sterling defensive plays and an inside the park home run. If Yost gets his rotations correct, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility the team can survive this. It’s just I would feel a little more comfortable if they would hit the trade market to try to find a replacement.
This team is entering the break on a high note. They need to have all the weapons they can at their disposal to continue putting distance between themselves and the rest of the league.