Alex Gordon tested his surgically repaired wrist on Monday and reported no issues. He was cleared to take some “dry” swings as the next step, meaning he will swing the bat but won’t make contact with a baseball. (Or as I termed it, he will be using The Francoeur Method.)
That’s some good news. Gordon was also in the news over the weekend as he told McCullough that he may not be so quick to exercise his player option for the 2016 season.
Perhaps a quick recap is in order.
Gordon’s current contract contains a player option for 2016, valued at $14 million. Late last summer, as the Royals geared up for their charge to the Wild Card, Gordon indicated he was going to exercise that option.
Cooler heads have since prevailed.
As fun as it was to hear Gordon pledge his allegiance to the Royals for another season, I didn’t buy it for one moment. Not that he’s ingenuine. Nothing of the sort. I think he was caught up in the moment of the pennant race and said what he felt – and believed – at the time. The Royals are the only organization he’s ever known; a franchise he grew up rooting for as a kid. Of course he would want to stay.
But to exercise that option would be lunacy.
Gordon isn’t a flashy player, but he’s incredibly solid in all facets of the game. You know this. You also know that what Gordon brings is incredibly valuable. Even if he doesn’t play a “premium” position. In the landscape of today’s game, he’s definitely one of the most valuable players in the league. And he’s been in the conversation for the last four seasons.
Gordon was so close to being a “bust” is now on the precipice of a major payday. He should collect. He owes it to himself to explore avenues to get his maximum value. Is that an extension with the Royals? Or is it through free agency? We will know more in the next several months, but at this moment the only thing we do know is that Gordon is going to get paid a whole lot of money to play baseball for the next several years. Good for him.
The Royals are in an interesting place. It’s something I’ve thought about often as I’ve watched other, larger market teams, overextend in an effort to keep together a successful core. It’s unique for the Royals because in the current economic climate of the game, they have never had what you would consider to be a successful core. Or anything approximating that. Sure, there have been extensions here and there in the Dayton Moore era (Gordon included) that were designed to keep players around during their peak years. Now the Royals are facing the future with the heart of their club and deciding if they should stand by him (and pay him) for what are certain to be his declining years.
The fan in me is optimistic. Hopeful that the Royals will do something to keep Gordon in Kansas City for the remainder of his career. And with that optimism comes the hope that he can keep playing at an elite level and experience a minor decline phase for the next several season. Naturally. The realist in me is fretful that it’s going to cost so much money the prudent thing would be to move on. Let those decline years become someone else’s headache.
Should Gordon get a five year contract in the range of $90 million, he would need to average around 2.6 WAR per season. Perhaps my bias is showing, but that seems doable. Gordon has averaged 5.6 fWAR over the last four years. Last season, Gordon finished with a 6.6 fWAR. That’s an AAV of $18 million per season and well past any deal the Royals and Moore have handed out in the past.
For 2015, Steamer is projecting a 4.4 fWAR and ZiPS is looking at a 4.3 zWAR. That’s quite a tumble for a guy who has topped that mark in three of the last four seasons. Instead, I’ll save that 4.4 fWAR mark and project that forward for the 2016 season which Gordon will play as a 32 year old. With the WAR aging factor provided by The Book Blog, and by figuring a base amount of $6.5 million per win with some inflation factored into the equation, a fair market contract for Gordon would work out to around those five years and in the neighborhood of the estimated $90 million.
It’s a major commitment, with the danger of there being little upside.
As I’ve noted, if the Royals pickup the options on Wade Davis and Alcides Escobar, their 2016 payroll is already around $75 million for a total of 11 players (and buyouts.) Add an extension for Gordon and you are approaching $95 million for 12 players. Consider the Royals are looking at a payroll of $112 million for the entire 25 man roster for 2015 and you see the dilemma of the front office. Which is why if the two parties are to come to an agreement, it probably won’t be something straightforward like $18 million a year. I’m guessing the contract would be heavily backloaded to ease some of the burden of 2016.
Not that it gets any easier. Again, assuming the club picks up options on Davis and Escobar and also Sal Perez, the team has already committed $42 million to just five players (including buyouts) in 2017. The other two? Omar Infante and Jason Vargas. Oops. See how all these moves matter?
Gordon wants to stay in Kansas City. The Royals would love to have him remain a Royal. The question is, can they find a way that is fiscally acceptable to both parties?
One thing we do know is this isn’t a Billy Butler scenario. While Butler wanted to remain in Kansas City, the feeling wasn’t mutual. The only reason he played out his contract was because the Royals couldn’t trade him for a return they felt was acceptable. The Royals are aware of the value Gordon brings, so they will make an attempt to keep him around. It will be up to David Glass and the Royals brain trust to fashion a creative contract to keep Gordon forever Royal.