As the euphoria of the first Royals World Championship in 30 years begins to wear off, the realization that professional baseball is a business begins to take front and center of our collective attentions. The Royals announced they have declined the options on Alex Rios and Jeremy Guthrie, sending both to the land of free agency where come Friday they will be free to sign with any club.
It was no surprise that either of these were let go given the less than stellar performances they gave in the 2015 season, but none the less, it is a tough pill to swallow to see players depart on the heels of something as monumental as a World Series.
Both of these represent positions that the Royals will most certainly be looking to replace, and most likely upgrade for the coming season but neither represents the chasm that would open should they lose another player eligible for free agency on Friday, a one Alex Gordon. Alex Gordon had a player option for the 2016 season but understandably chose to decline it in lieu of a much more lucrative payday that he has certainly earned.
In professional sports, there are never for sure things so players must make sure they get what they can get WHEN they can.
It is a fallacy to point fingers at professional sports players as greedy when they do what almost all members of society do when given the chance, make as much money as they can. When a widget maker gets offered double his wages to make widgets across the street, 9 times out of 10 thats where he will be in 2 weeks time.
Baseball players are no different, except they have the ability to make millions upon millions more if they move to another city for a few years of their life. An understandable proposition when most are already outside of where they grew up. If you knew you had to move in the next month to either Boston or New York, what difference would it really make except to who pays you the most to be there? Such is the life of the free agent.
Alex Gordon represents a unique challenge for the Royals. It has been a successful blueprint for General Manager Dayton Moore thus far to stay far far away from the high end free agent market. This has allowed him the flexibility to sign multiple players for multiple needs all the while never being too married to one player so as to let them bring down the organization. Omar Infante has so far seemed the exception to the rule of signing long term free agent contracts, and we all have seen how that has handcuffed the front office.
By overpaying for Omar in years, ( 4 yrs/$30.25M) even though the dollars weren't too high, the Royals have a player that is STILL on the hook for the next 2 seasons even though the last 2 have been dreadful. (slash line as a Royal — .238/.268/.329)
Alex Rios under whelmed in his one year with the organization, but they are perfectly free to move on. It even sits currently as one of the easiest avenues to upgrade an already Championship Club. Infante is not. He will at least be given the opportunity to start the year with the Royals, and will have to be dreadful to be removed even by the All-Star break in 2016.
Bottom line, Omar Infante is a bad contract. The fear of any General Manager.. They would have to assume around $15.5 million dollars in dead money over the next 2 seasons if they were to let him go right now, a move than many fans would certainly support. Take in contrast the 1 year deal given to Alex Rios. When giving short term free agent deals, the ability to move on from a player should they perform as Rios has is more than a luxury for small market teams, it is a necessity.
Alex Goron already ranks 5th in terms of all time WAR among Royals players, sitting right below Frank White and just above Hal McRae. Adding on to that legacy over the next five years would catapult him to most likely being second to the immortal George Brett.
Alex Gordon is entering his age 32 season, and if you want to see all the negatives about signing players ages 32 and up then please read this. It gives a bleak outlook on sinking money into a player based on what they have been instead evaluating what they will be. In order to be worth a big money contract on the field, Alex Gordon will have to be the exception, not the rule.
The one positive about Gordon is that with his exceptional work ethic and discipline, he is in line to be that exception. He very well could be a productive player into his late 30's, but at some point he will decline.
The DIFFERENCE with the Royals looking to re-sign Gordon and that of the average Free Agent is Gordon could be something truly special.
Alex Gordon doesn't represent the type of free agent that Dayton Moore and the Glass family would overpay for in the hopes he would give that value back in way of on field performance. Alex Gordon represents something that only comes along once every few generations in Kansas City. A Championship player who is a lifelong Royal. How much is that worth?
The examples would be Frank White and George Brett. What are these two individuals worth not only to the club but to the entire community? With someone as well respected as Alex Gordon, he would be a perfect addition to that family of lifelong Royals players.
It will most likely take something in the way of a 5 year deal to sign Gordon. It is quite possible that at the end of that tenure, at the ripe age of 37, Alex Gordon may be a burden on the budget of the Royals front office. His paycheck may be at the point it exceeds his production. That is entirely possible. But in suffering for a couple years, the entire Royals community would be picking up an ambassador for life.
Its not often that bloggers, especially Royals bloggers, would champion the notion that overspending is ok. More often than not it isn't. It is a rarity to be able to point to a player and say "it is ok to overpay that guy."
The ability for a General Manager to get as much value as possible from every single move is the measure of their success. In the world of professional sports, we often attribute that to ONLY on field performance, but there is more than that. A General Manager must also look at how a player is able to bring in money to an organization by ways that arent always measured in WAR or OPS.
Frank White delivered some of the worst seasons by a Royals player ever in his last few seasons….and yet there his number sits as one of three at the top of the Royals Hall of Fame. Three numbers. That alone should tell you how big of an opportunity it would be to add the fourth.
Having another left fielder come in to replace Gordon may be the prudent thing to do. It would be cheaper, and may even provide better bang for the buck on the field. But keeping Alex Gordon in Kansas City does just that, and when we are talking about keeping someone like Alex Gordon, there is no pricetag….its priceless.
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