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Alex Gordon Rumors
This winter, outfielder Alex Gordon appears likely to start a new chapter of his career, and his impending foray into the free agent market could result in his departure from Kansas City. The cases of Gordon and Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward will be worth watching in part for what they’ll tell us about teams’ willingness to offer big contracts to players whose value derives in part from outstanding corner outfield defense.
Gordon’s current four-year, $37.5MM deal with the Royals appears likely to end after the season. He has a player option for 2015 that was initially valued at $12.5MM, but has now climbed to $14MM due to performance escalators. Last season, Gordon said that he intended to exercise it, although he has since backed down somewhat from that stance, and he told the Kansas City Star last spring that he and the Royals were not discussing an extension.
Gordon seems to love playing in Kansas City and the Royals seem to want to keep him, and the recent resurgence of fan interest in the team could give them a bigger budget with which to do so. Gordon will be 32 in February, however, and he’ll likely receive long-term offers from other organizations that could carry him into his mid to late 30s. That’s a risk the small-market Royals might not be willing to take, particularly since they haven’t done so already.
Gordon has been out since early July with a groin strain, although he has begun a rehab assignment and should be able to play in September and in the playoffs. When he returns, he’ll continue a 2015 offensive season that has been among the best in his career so far. He’s hitting .279/.394/.457 in 312 plate appearances, demonstrating a typically well-rounded offensive game that features average, power and plate discipline.
Gordon has also been a key part of the Royals’ outstanding team defense. His defensive numbers are down somewhat from last season, although they’re still very strong. UZR says Gordon has been 6.9 runs better than the typical left fielder this year, down from the 25 runs above average he accumulated in 2014, although in twice as much playing time. Defensive Runs Saved, meanwhile, credits Gordon with four runs this year, as compared to 27 last year.
Overall, Gordon still rates as a terrific defensive left fielder, and it would perhaps be unwise to read too much into a one-year drop in his fielding numbers. His defense is, however, likely to decline during his next contract as he slows down and loses range. We might already be seeing signs of that this season, in which he’s only stolen one base after swiping at least ten in all of the previous four years.
Nonetheless, Gordon is at least as worthy of a big contract as, say, Shin-Soo Choo was when he signed a nine-figure deal with Texas after a big year in Cincinnati. Gordon will be a half a year older than Choo was at the time of his deal, and he doesn’t have the .423 on-base percentage Choo did in 2013. But Choo had rated very poorly on defense in the two seasons leading to his contract, whereas Gordon is markedly above average even in an off year. As a group, fast and athletic outfielders tend to age fairly well, maintaining much of their offensive value even as their speed and defense decline. So while Gordon seems very likely to decline over the course of his next deal, he appears likely to remain productive as a hitter.
While next offseason’s class of hitters isn’t particularly strong overall, it does include a good class of outfielders. The three top names (Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes) are all younger than Gordon. Heyward, who has the advantage of heading into the free agent market at age 26, seems likely to land an enormous contract, and so should Upton, who will be 28. Cespedes, meanwhile, has boosted his stock with a terrific season, and MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes suggested in a recent email that Cespedes was a candidate to receive a seven-figure deal.
Heyward, Upton and Cespedes rank Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Dierkes’ latest Free Agent Power Rankings, with Gordon at No. 7. As Dierkes notes, Gordon’s age likely caps his next contract at six years. Choo, of course, got seven, but perhaps last year’s market suggests teams are somewhat less willing to hand out such long contracts. Pablo Sandoval got five guaranteed years last winter and Hanley Ramirez four, and even those contracts, like Choo’s, look unfortunate now.
Gordon’s defensive ability gives him an edge on those players, however. He’s a better hitter than Sandoval was as well. It remains to be seen whether Gordon will be able to top Sandoval’s guaranteed $95MM, but he should be able to at least get close. Before the season, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star pointed to Hunter Pence‘s five-year, $90MM deal with the Giants as another potential template. If a team were willing to offer a sixth year, Gordon’s contract could easily top $100MM.
It will also be worth watching to see if Gordon takes a somewhat smaller, or shorter, offer to stay with the Royals. It’s no shock that the Casey Close client has gone back on his very surprising announcement that he planned to pick up his team-friendly 2016 option, but that Gordon said that in the first place suggests strongly that his preference would be to remain in Kansas City. The Royals might not be able to offer the kind of big-money deal Gordon could get elsewhere, and they’ll have a number of difficult decisions in the coming years as players like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas all approach free agency themselves. But they perhaps could offer enough to convince Gordon to stay.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Phillies actually preferred the Astros offer for starter Cole Hamels, but the lefty ultimately used his no-trade protection to block the trade, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. Included in the rejected deal were outfield prospect Brett Phillips and pitcher Josh Hader, both of whom went to the Brewers in the Carlos Gomez trade. The Astros may have been willing to guarantee Hamels’ fourth year, but he ultimately decided against the option.
- The Royals will have a tough time re-signing several key players. Lorenzo Cain might be the easiest, but he’ll first want to see how Jason Heyward performs on the free agent market. While Heyward is four years younger than Cain, the average annual value “could be instructive” per Rosenthal. Cain is under control for two more seasons. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon can opt out after this season, and he looks like a lock to do so. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, both clients of Scott Boras, are also under club control for two seasons.
- Cardinals assistant GM Mike Girsch was a candidate for the Padres GM job opening last year. That posting was eventually filled by A.J. Preller. Girsch may be considered for other top jobs, but the Cardinals hacking scandal may put a damper on his market.
- Chase Utley will use his no-trade rights to pick his next team. Per Rosenthal, Utley may not make an obvious decision. For example, he may or may not be interested in playing for his home town Giants. As was reported repeatedly over the past few days, Utley will seek to find a home where he’ll continue to play regularly both this season and next.
MLive.com’s Chris Iott takes an extended look at the Tigers‘ payroll situation going forward, explaining that the team will probably have over $130MM on the books even before addressing numerous still-undetermined roster spots. (MLBTR provided Iott with some hypothetical arbitration raises for players such as J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias. If Martinez finishes the season at his current production rate, he could be in line for nearly a $5MM salary bump.) Newly-minted GM Al Avila will face challenges even if the team spends at or past the $170MM+ Opening Day payroll it trotted out to start 2015, Iott writes, as the team has a host of needs if it hopes to put a legitimate contender on the field. He reasons that one or two starters, multiple bullpen pieces, a corner outfielder, and possibly a reserve backstop may need to be acquired between now and the start of the 2016 campaign.
- One more immediate issue for the Tigers that could have future ramifications is the resolution of the team’s closer role. As George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports, manager Brad Ausmus has not yet committed to either Alex Wilson or Bruce Rondon, both of whom have recently converted two save opportunities. Ausmus says that Rondon may receive “some more opportunities” in the ninth, adding that “Wilson is going to pitch in the back end somewhere.” Regardless of their particular roles, Detroit will surely hope that the pair can make up a reliable one-two punch at the back of the pen. Neither will qualify for arbitration until 2017, making them cheap options for the organization as it approaches an interesting offseason.
- The Yankees brought up promising young first baseman Greg Bird today, as Jack Curry of the YES Network reported on Twitter. Bird, 22, has put up a .277/.356/.469 slash with 12 home runs over 362 plate appearances. MLB.com currently rates him as the organization’s fourth overall prospect.
- Royals outfielder Alex Gordon expects to begin a rehab assignment “shortly,” he tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter link). Kansas City has been deploying trade deadline acquisition Ben Zobrist in left, but will have an opportunity to move him around the corner outfield and infield once Gordon goes back to his customary position. With an eleven-game division lead, however, the team will surely make sure that Gordon is at full health before working him back.
10:51am: Gordon has a grade two-plus strain and is expected to miss eight weeks of action, manager Ned Yost told reporters, including McCullough (Twitter links). Surgery does not appear to be necessary, per Yost.
10:09am: While we are still awaiting news on the MRI results, the Royals have already gone ahead and added Alex Gordon to the 15-day DL. The outfielder left the club’s game last night with a left groin strain.
Gordon, an easy All-Star selection after a typically excellent first half, took a scary spill while pursuing a ball hit to the left field wall. After the game, manager Ned Yost did not express much confidence, indicating that Gordon could be lost for a significant stretch.
Kansas City, which owns the American League’s best winning percentage, does have internal options. The speedy Jarrod Dyson figures to see a good piece of the action, while the right-handed-hitting Paulo Orlando provides a platoon mate.
Depending upon the prognosis, an outside addition remains possible, though the team may still prioritize starting pitching and/or second base. Adding a player capable of manning both the corner outfield and the keystone — Ben Zobrist being the best-known example of that archetype — would have obvious facial appeal.
For Gordon, 31, it’s not the best time to go down for a lengthy stretch, and not only because of team considerations. He faces a (rather easy) decision on his player option and pending free agency. Gordon’s value probably will not take much of a hit if he’s able to demonstrate a return to health later this year, though he already faces some age-related limitations on his earning power.
A trio of notable players left tonight’s action early. It’s too soon to speculate in any of the situations, but all are worthy of note with the All-Star break right around the corner.
- Royals skipper Ned Yost indicated that he is fearful of a prolonged absence for Gordon, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter links). Though McCullough adds that the training staff does not believe Gordon’s groin muscle detached from the bone, the 31-year-old is said to have heard a pop from the muscle.
- The Royals may have dodged a bullet, as the team announced that star left fielder Alex Gordon was carted off with a groin strain. It appeared that his left leg buckled as he chased a ball to the wall, and Gordon’s obvious pain contributed to the impression that he may have suffered a significant leg injury. Regardless, a groin strain can itself still be rather a serious problem, and it is too early to know the long-term implications. Needless to say, any lost time from the outstanding veteran would create a significant hole in the Kansas City lineup.
- Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir left his start tonight after just three innings with triceps tightness. But after the game, he told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jane Lee, on Twitter) that the issue is “super minor” and should not cause him to miss any time. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reminds us, via Twitter, this is not the first time that the veteran has been forced out early from a start. And indeed, there may not be cause for concern. But the timing is obviously not great, with Kazmir shaping up to be one of the market’s more appealing rental arms.
- The Cubs‘ starter this evening, Jason Hammel, also left quite early with what the team called left hamstring tightness, as John Jackson writes for ESPN.com. Chicago turned to lefty Clayton Richard, who was just added in a trade. While it’s obviously less concerning to hear of an injury of this nature than the two noted above, the Cubs will surely still proceed with caution, and Hammel will undergo an MRI, per a tweet from Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Chicago’s rotation is not the deepest part of its roster, and Hammel makes up a key part of an effective top three, having put up 102 2/3 innings of 2.89 ERA pitching.
In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by looking at the contentious courtroom showdown that stands between Alex Rodriguez and as much as $30MM worth of home run milestone bonuses. As Heyman notes, people on all sides of the case have reasons to dislike A-Rod. Rodriguez filed a lawsuit (that was eventually dropped) against the MLBPA, and he parted ways with agent Scott Boras more than six years ago. The Yankees’ reasons for resenting Rodriguez are obvious, as are those of the league, with whom Rodriguez battled to reduce a 212-game suspension to a still-significant 162 game ban. Heyman looks at the arguments that can be made by both sides as well as the potential fallout once the situation is finally resolved.
Some highlights from the latest edition of Heyman’s newest weekly column…
- Though the Red Sox aren’t blinking when it comes to trade talks with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, one rival GM considers Boston the favorite. The Phillies quite like center field prospect Manuel Margot, and Boston does have other nice pieces. Heyman notes that one scout actually expressed concern to him about Mookie Betts‘ ability to hit the ball on the outer half of the plate, but the Sox remain steadfast in their refusal to part ways with Betts.
- The Cubs aren’t concerned with a potential grievance being filed against them on behalf of Kris Bryant. Rather, their main concern is trying to find a way to extend him beyond his current allotment of team control. Heyman hears that Cubs are already considering trying to make him a Cub for life, though he also notes that it’s a bit early for those discussions.
- White Sox skipper Robin Ventura signed an extension of an unreported length prior to the 2014 season, and Heyman now hears that Ventura is under contract through the 2016 season. The contract length is said to be of little importance to ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who loves Ventura.
- The Royals plan to try to do “whatever they can” to retain Alex Gordon beyond the 2015 season. The 32-year-old Gordon’s $12.5MM player option has increased to $13.25MM based on performance escalators, per Heyman. While Gordon has implied that he will exercise the option in the past, it’s exceptionally difficult to envision him merely picking up the option rather than trying for a highly lucrative multi-year deal. The Royals never felt they had a great shot at retaining James Shields, but their hope with Gordon is that the career Royal and Nebraska native might be easier to retain. Heyman adds that while the club is interested in trying to extend Salvador Perez beyond the 2019 season, those talks aren’t likely to come until after the season.
- Juan Uribe is off to a decent start with the Dodgers, but the hot play of Alex Guerrero and the addition of Hector Olivera in Spring Training could eventually lead to Uribe becoming available on the trade market. Uribe’s at hasn’t lined up with his previous seasons to this point, but he’s hit a perhaps surprisingly strong .293/.333/.435 dating back to Opening Day 2013.
- Rival executives are anxiously anticipating a Brewers fire sale following the club’s awful 5-17 start to the season, Heyman hears. One exec listed Carlos Gomez, Khris Davis, Jean Segura, Gerardo Parra, Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez as players who will draw interest, noting that Jonathan Lucroy is probably untouchable, while Matt Garza and Ryan Braun are somewhat overpriced.
- The Mets were trying for a three-year extension that contained a club option and would’ve guaranteed Lucas Duda a bit shy of $30MM. I’d imagine that with Duda could end up the beneficiary in that scenario, particularly if he can sustain the increase in his walk rate and the more notable decrease in his strikeout rate.
- Multiple Yankees people have shot down the notion that the team would pursue Hamels when asked by Heyman. One replied that the team is “not looking” at Hamels, while another wondered if Hamels is still a legitimate ace or more of just a big name.
Full Story | 45 Comments | Categories: Alex Gordon | Alex Rodriguez | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Gomez | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Cole Hamels | Francisco Rodriguez | Gerardo Parra | Jean Segura | Jonathan Lucroy | Juan Uribe | Kansas City Royals | Kris Bryant | Los Angeles Dodgers | Lucas Duda | Manuel Margot | Matt Garza | Milwaukee Brewers | Mookie Betts | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | Robin Ventura | Ryan Braun | Salvador Perez
Next year’s free agent market contains plenty of players who could receive qualifying offers — David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Heyward, and others. Here’s a look at potential qualifying offer recipients who have the best chance of being traded this season, thus preventing them from receiving that designation.
At issue, of course, is draft pick compensation and forfeiture. A team extending a qualifying offer to a player receives a draft pick in return if the player signs elsewhere. The signing team also gives up a draft pick. But a player who has been traded in the season before he becomes a free agent can’t be extended a qualifying offer and thus isn’t attached to draft picks. That can be an important consideration for teams shopping for free agents, as we’ve seen in recent years in the cases of Kyle Lohse, Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, whose markets have all shrunk in part because of the qualifying offer.
Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, Reds. The Reds are off to a 4-0 start but still aren’t that likely to contend, which means that Cueto and Leake could hit the free agent market this summer. Trading Cueto, in particular, would be a great way for the Reds to add to their collection of young talent. Leake might be somewhat trickier to trade, since the Reds’ return might not be worth that much more than the draft pick and negotiating leverage they would forgo by dealing him.
Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir, Athletics. Billy Beane’s trade for Zobrist this offseason was a somewhat surprising one to begin with. The Athletics could easily contend, but if they don’t, Beane seems unlikely to sit still, and finding a new home for Zobrist wouldn’t be difficult given his versatility. Kazmir is another possibility — if he performs at his 2014 levels, he could receive a qualifying offer if the A’s contend or be traded if they don’t.
Alex Gordon, Royals. The Royals haven’t discussed an extension with Gordon, who would undoubtedly be an attractive trade target if the Royals were to fall out of contention in the AL Central. They’re currently 4-0, however, and there’s still the matter of Gordon’s $12.5MM option. Exercising it would likely not be an optimal financial decision from Gordon’s perspective, but he’s expressed interest in doing so before. If he were to make clear to the Royals that he planned to do so, he almost certainly wouldn’t be a trade candidate.
Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, Padres. San Diego gambled heavily this offseason on the Padres’ ability to win in 2015. If they don’t, A.J. Preller doesn’t seem like the sort of GM to hang onto two key players who are due to become free agents. One possibility if the Padres were to trade Kennedy or especially Upton would be to acquire big-league talent in return, much like the Red Sox did when they dealt Jon Lester last summer. That would enable the Padres to re-tool for 2016, when they’ll still control most of the players they acquired over the winter.
Yovani Gallardo, Rangers. The Brewers exercised what was effectively a $12.4MM 2015 option ($13MM minus a $600K buyout) before trading Gallardo to Texas. His market value likely is somewhere near the value of a qualifying offer, and extending him one wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Rangers if he performs well this season. They could easily trade him rather than doing that, although that might be somewhat difficult given all the higher-impact starters who might be available and the value that would disappear if the ability to extend Gallardo a qualifying offer were to vanish.
Jeff Samardzija, White Sox. The new-look White Sox are 0-4, and GM Rick Hahn has said he will be “nimble” in turning his attention to the future if the organization’s moves to contend this summer don’t work out. That might mean Samardzija could be traded for the third time in a year. He would likely command significant value on the trade market.
Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, Orioles. Davis and Wieters are worth watching, although it’s somewhat unlikely that they’re valuable enough to receive qualifying offers and that they become trade candidates. Davis had a down season in 2014, while Wieters continues to struggle with health problems (and there’s currently no timetable for his return from an elbow injury). If Davis and Wieters are productive and healthy, the Orioles could well contend, and thus it’s unlikely they’ll be traded. If they aren’t, they might not be qualifying offer candidates.
Full Story | 0 Comments | Categories: Alex Gordon | Baltimore Orioles | Ben Zobrist | Chicago White Sox | Chris Davis | Cincinnati Reds | Free Agent Market | Ian Kennedy | Jeff Samardzija | Johnny Cueto | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Matt Wieters | Mike Leake | MLBTR Originals | Oakland Athletics | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers | Yovani Gallardo
Though Alex Gordon is entering his last guaranteed year under contract with the Royals, the outfielder tells Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star that “not one bit” of talks have taken place about an extension. “I love it here. This is where I want to play,” Gordon said. “But you have to realize the situation. Maybe it won’t happen, maybe it will.”
Gordon has a $13.25MM player option for 2016 that he was originally intending to exercise as of last summer, though he said last month that he wasn’t sure if he would pick his option up. If Gordon has a good 2015 season, declining the option would put him in line for an expensive multi-year contract on the free agent market.
Mellinger’s piece outlines the pros and cons of extending Gordon from the Royals’ perspective. On the pro side, Gordon has been a productive player, they have no ready-made replacement for his bat or outstanding left field glove, and the popular Gordon has been a “face of the franchise” for the last decade. On the con side, a Gordon extension would surely be the most expensive contract in Royals history and they may not want to spend that much on a player who will be entering his age-32 season in 2016.
Gordon did undergo wrist surgery in December and has yet to appear in any Spring Training action, so it could be that the Royals simply want to make sure that he’s recovered before discussing a new deal. Still, I agree with Mellinger that it’s rather surprising that Kansas City hasn’t at least broached the subject of an extension with Gordon or his representatives at Excel Sports Management. Most players don’t want to negotiate new contracts once the season begins, so even if no agreement is reached now, K.C. could at least lay some groundwork for further talks after the season.
Last August, Alex Gordon told reporters he intended to exercise his $13.25MM player option for the 2016 season. Now he may decline the option, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. When asked earlier today, Gordon said, “I don’t know the answer right now. I don’t know how this year is going to go, or how it’s going to look at the end of the year.”
Gordon is open to an extension with the Royals, although no negotiations are active. While some players set a deadline for contract talks, Gordon is willing to discuss the matter during the season. He indicated a desire to remain in Kansas City, saying “[It] almost feels like my hometown.”
The situation could become awkward for the Royals. McCullough compares Gordon to Hunter Pence who earned a five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants. The largest contract in Royals history is the $55MM paid to Gil Meche and Mike Sweeney. An extension to Gordon similar to that of Pence could affect their ability to retain Eric Hosmer or Yordano Ventura.
Club payroll is at $110MM with $66.8MM committed to 2016. Team options for Wade Davis and Alcides Escobar along with arbitration for Greg Holland, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy, and Mike Moustakas could push that figure close to $100MM. One rival official suggested the club is in a catch-22. If Gordon has a strong season, he could price his way out of the market. If he struggles, then they’re stuck with the player option.
In his recent power rankings for the 2016 offseason, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Gordon as the seventh best potential free agent. Pointing to Shin-Soo Choo, Dierkes believes Gordon is young enough to merit a nine-figure deal. He figures a $110MM guarantee might be enough to keep him in Kansas City.