Isn’t that the real issue these days?
It is not so much the dollars per year, but the concern over what sort of production the Royals might be paying big money for three, four and especially five years down the road. It is a valid concern as the Alex would be 36 years old for the entirety of the fifth year of a potential deal. I was 32 once and 36 once as well. I was faster at 32 than I was at 36 and my knees and shoulder did not ache near as much.
Now, let’s have a bit of fun. Let’s go back in time to the off-season following the 2012 campaign. Ben Zobrist was turning 32 years old. If Zobrist had been a Royal back then, would you have signed him to a five year deal? Let’s ignore the dollars (I know, sounds stupid, maybe it is) for now and address the issue of declining production.
If you had not signed Zobrist to a five year deal, one would have missed out on 5.0 fWAR in his age 32 season, 5.5 in his age 33 campaign and 2.1 in his age 34 season. Yes, Zobrist had an injury and played in just 126 games and his WAR took a hit defensively. His bat, however, as we are well aware remained right in line with career (.276/.359/.450). If the Royals were locked into paying Ben for his age 35 season, would you be particularly concerned about getting bang for your buck? Personally, I would be feeling pretty good about it right now.
I apply this exercise to Zobrist because, while he is a different type of defensive player, he bears a striking similarity with the bat to Alex Gordon.
Over 1,190 games, Zobrist has compiled a line of .265/.355/.431 and been worth 36.8 fWAR. Over 1,136 games, Alex Gordon has compiled a line of .268/.348/.435 and been worth a total of 29.7 fWAR. If over the next three seasons, Gordon was worth 12.6 fWAR (as Zobrist was at ages 32-34), he could not play a game at age 35 and still be worth the money spent.
You all know my stance: resign Gordon, spend the money, go for it in 2016 and 2017 and pick up the pieces in the next couple of years. I think Alex Gordon, like Zobrist, will be productive for certainly the two season and could well be a productive player in his age 34 and 35 seasons to ease the post-Hosmer, et.al. crash.
Including Zobrist, 19 players age 32 or older were worth 2.0 fWAR. All ages, by the way, 92 players were worth that much or more. When you up the age to 34, only nine players surpassed 2.0 fWAR – that doesn’t count, by the way, Carlos Beltran who was worth 1.9 with a triple slash of .276/.337/.471. Only four players were worth two wins or better at age 35 or older last year – three of those being 36 or older.
That is one season – not detailed research and comparison to really just one player (Zobrist). There is risk in a big money four year deal and certainly more in five. I am not sure I buy the idea that small market teams cannot afford to take risks. I am also not sure I buy the logic that trying to avoid a cruddy season or two at the end of this decade is worth trying to skimp on restocking a championship team for the next two years.
Alex Gordon for four years? You bet. For five? I think I still take the leap.