Posted on January 22, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
With a new owner and a new manager, the Kansas City Royals are beginning a new era in 2020. However, there’s always enough room for an old favorite. On Wednesday, the Royals agreed to a one-year deal with veteran outfielder Alex Gordon. He will make $4 million plus incentives in what will be his 14th major league season, all of which he’s spent in Kansas City.
Gordon, who will turn 36 next month, has been in decline since playing a key role in Kansas City’s World Series championship in 2015. However, he saw a surprising bump in his productivity last season, hitting .266 with an OPS of .741. Even deep into his 30s, Gordon was able to start 145 games and give the Royals over 550 at-bats. He also provides the kind of veteran leadership and experience that could prove useful as the Royals continue to rebuild.
“He is one of the most driven players in the game today,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said of Gordon. “He represents everything the league wants in a player. He can still play at a high level, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. He is the player that everyone strives to be.”
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As part of his contract, Gordon waived the full no-trade clause that comes with having 10-and-5 rights. He will also make a $500,000 bonus if the Royals trade him this season. However, Gordon doesn’t seem eager to wear a different uniform and may want to stay with the Royals as long as he keeps playing in hopes that the club can turn things around enough to become a playoff contender again.
“I don’t think this is a situation where Alex feels like this is his last year,” says Moore. “He is very competitive and he wants to win, above all else. But I don’t think [trading him] is something we have even considered. We are hoping to be much more competitive this season.”
Of course, as he gets older and the Royals rebuild, Gordon could start to see a diminished role this season. Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier are in line to join Gordon in Kansas City’s outfield, playing center and right field, respectively. But the Royals also have young outfielders in Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips who may prove themselves worthy of regular playing time. Both struggled offensively last season but were once highly-regarded prospects.
In the event that either Starling or Phillips takes off in 2020, there’s a chance that Gordon could find himself serving as a bench player. However, his experience and strong defense could make him valuable in that role. Gordon could also serve as a mentor to a young Royals team that has lost over 100 games in back-to-back seasons.
Obviously, it’d be a surprise to see the Royals be a serious contender in 2020. Bringing back Gordon’s modest production certainly doesn’t move the needle much. But he proved last year that he’s still worth something on the field. Even if his playing time starts to diminish, Gordon is the kind of veteran who can help mold a young team and give a team like the Royals a chance to surprise some people this season.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are to have Gordo back,” says Merrifield. “Probably the second-greatest player to ever wear a Royals uniform. What he means to this team and this city goes beyond numbers. He instantly makes any team better, and I’m so pumped we got him back.”