I feel like I’ve been fortunate enough to use that headline multiple times this spring, and that’s because I have. Today, the Royals announced they’ve agreed to terms on a four year contract with a fifth year player option with their star left fielder, Alex Gordon. The deal is for $37.5 million in the first four seasons with the fifth year player option coming in at $12.5 million.
The breakdown is such:
2012: $6 million
2013: $9 million
2014: $10 million
2015: $12.5 million
In Alex Gordon, the Royals did what we’ve all been talking about all spring long, and they made me look good on my prediction from a few weeks back that the Royals would not play a single game in the 2012 season without Alex Gordon in the fold for at least four more seasons.
My only concern about this contract is a pretty small one, and it’s that the fifth year is a player option rather than a team option. I will say that a $12.5 million player option is pretty friendly for the Royals unless Gordon absolutely tanks it. It’s not such a small player option that he won’t automatically turn it down if he’s worth anything. But like I said, the risk is there if he ends up reverting to his 2009 and 2010 ways and being an absolute zero at the plate. Personally, I just don’t think that is going to happen. Maybe that’s being overly optimistic, but I just see what Gordon did last year and can’t help but think he’s figured things out and he’s going to be an All-Star quality player for at least five more seasons.
The deal takes him potentially through his age 32 season, which is perfect because that’s typically the end of the prime years for a player. With Gordon’s attention to fitness and detail, I can’t imagine that he’ll just fall off a cliff at that point, but it gives the Royals a good point at which they’re able to reevaluate what he’s worth if they want to keep him in the fold beyond the 2016 season.
This contract comes on the heels of the breakthrough season for Gordon that many believed would come during his rookie year in 2007. Gordon was, of course, the second pick in the 2005 draft that has produced just a ridiculous amount of big league talent. He was college player of the year in 2005 and then was named the player of the year in the minor leagues during his 2006 campaign and was placed on the opening day roster in 2007 without having ever played a game above AA.
That, of course, seemed to be a mistake as Gordon got off to a horrifically slow start. The story goes that prior to a June game against the Indians, they had planned to send him down, but he went 4-4 that day off the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona and was pretty good the rest of the season. His 2008 season was above average, but his defense at third base began slipping for unknown reasons. 2009 was plagued by a hip injury and 2010 by a thumb injury and another slow start when the Royals decided that enough was enough and they sent him to AAA Omaha to become a left fielder. It was a last ditch effort by the Royals to get some semblance of value out of their number two overall pick.
In 2010, Gordon raked at Omaha, was named to the All-Star team and made it back to Kansas City when David DeJesus hurt himself diving after a ball. To say Gordon struggled upon his callup would be an understatement. He hit .218/.311/.360 in the last two plus months of the season. Gone was the power potential and quickly dissipating was the star potential so many saw in him. Then toward the end of the season, he gave what has become a famous answer to an innocent question about what he expected to do in 2011. He said he would dominate.
And he did. He started the season tough, going 0-5 on Opening Day including just missing a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth, but the next day he started hitting and he just didn’t stop. You know this, but I’ll tell you again because the numbers are so darn pretty. He hit .303/.376/.502 with 23 homers, 87 runs batted in, 45 doubles and oh yeah, he won a Gold Glove for his defensive work at his new position in left field. He had 20 outfield assists and looked like a natural (for the most part) in the outfield. He also became the team’s leadoff hitter in the middle of the season for lack of better options and excelled there. Sure the move was unorthodox, but it worked and it’s something that is going to be a key for the Royals offense in 2012. Obviously I’d love to see him be able to hit even second or somewhere in the middle of the lineup, but he is an important piece of what the Royals are building both offensively and defensively.
So now he’s signed to the long-term deal we’ve all been calling for since last season ended. I certainly can’t complain about the terms in the first four years of the deal and even the player option doesn’t seem like too big of a deal at this point. If he puts up four more years like this one, he’ll be worth more, but even if he settles into a .280/.360/.480 type hitter, $12.5 million seems pretty reasonable when you consider everything else he brings to the table. Many people, including Ned Yost, have said he’s the hardest worker they’ve ever seen, and that’s such a great thing to have on a young team that will never be veteran laden.
It’s good to see the Royals continue to lock up their talent because that’s the way this team competes and ultimately wins division titles, playoff games and World Series titles. The core is in place and for all the flack I’ve given Dayton Moore lately, he seems to have a knack for getting his player’s locked up as he’s done so now with Joakim Soria, Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar and now Alex Gordon. It’ll be good to see Alex Gordon in Royal blue for a few more years.
Follow me on Twitter @DBLesky!