Yesterday evening, news broke that the Kansas City Royals had signed leftfielder Alex Gordon to a four-year, $37.5-million contract with a player option for the 2016 season worth a reported $12.5-million. The deal represents the third extension doled out by Royals’ GM Dayton Moore since the beginning of Spring Training, along with the five-year extension given to catcher Salvador Perez and the four-year extension handed to shortstop Alcides Escobar.
The deal represents a potential steal for KC who signed Gordon to a now-voided $4.775-million deal in February to avoid arbitration; Gordon was eligible for the second time.
Last year, Gordon had his long-awaited breakout campaign, finishing with a .303/.376/.502 slash line and excellent defensive numbers in leftfield. His 6.9 fWAR ranked him seventh in the American League and he was ranked even higher by Baseball Prospectus’ WARP where his 7.2 mark ranked him fourth in all of baseball behind only Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury.
The rules of regression, as outlined by Matt Klaassen during the week here on Getting Blanked, suggest that Gordon’s numbers will take a step back in 2012, but he should still be a well-above-average player. The deal the Royals inked him to yesterday buys out his final two years of arbitration eligibility and at least his first two years of free agency at a more equitable price than the Colorado Rockies paid this winter for corner outfielder Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer, of course, is several years older and a whole lot less, you know, good at baseball than Gordon, yet he was signed to a three-year, $31.5-million deal back in December.
The deal is not without its risks considering it is possible that Gordon turns back into the player that frustrated scouts, stats geeks and Royals fans for several years, but that scenario seems unlikely. Moore has now locked up a full one-third of his young and impressive starting lineup for the next half-decade or so and with the expected emergence of first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas and outfielder Wil Myers over the next season or so, the Royals look like they’re finally building things the right way. Now if they could just get some pitching.
The career arch of Gordon should give Blue Jays fans some hope regarding their own floundering former prospect Travis Snider who seems to be taking a similar path. Gordon is the perfect example of why you should never give up too easily on a player with the ceiling and upside of a superstar. Although some elite prospects make the jump from AAA to the Major Leagues look trivial, the fact is, it’s the toughest jump in all of baseball. Sometimes allowing your young players to figure it out at a slower pace ends up working out in spades.
The Gordon deal could also have implications for another underachieving young Blue Jay outfielder. Colby Rasmus, who has almost exactly one less year of service time than Gordon, has a similarly high ceiling. If he has the type of breakout season Gordon enjoyed last year, which is certainly possible even if it is unlikely, his deal will almost certainly be used as a template in negotiations for a Rasmus extension.
And the rest:
Yesterday, in his TSTOAF feature, our mostly-fearless leader Dustin Parkes listed his ten best position players, 25 or younger. People, of course, took exception to Parkes’ list (something that is always a symptom of list-making), but ultimately these things are totally subjective and meant to be a fun exercise. For the record, here are my Top 12, because why not?
I like Hosmer to have a Top 5 MVP finish this season and Heyward and Posey could easily move up this list with bounce-back years. Also, before I get accused of being anti-Canadian, I, like Dustin I suspect, have Lawrie a little lower on this list, not because I don’t think he can one day be better than some of the players ahead of him, but because he has a vastly less impressive track record than almost anyone else on the list. He’s done amazing things, but not for as long as some of the others listed here. For my money, him and Jennings are about equal, but I give the edge to Jennings because of his ability to be an above-average defensive centerfielder once B.J. Upton moves on to greener pastures in 2013.
You know all those worries about Michael Pineda’s velocity? Well, they’ve been replaced with some potentially more serious worries. It looks as though he’ll start the year on the DL with shoulder tendinitis after experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder in yesterday’s game whilst being shelled [Marc Craig, Twitter].
The Colorado Rockies have officially announced that 49-year-old Jamie Moyer will start the year in the rotation. In case you weren’t aware of this, 49 is very old for a professional baseball pitcher [AP/NBC Sports].
The San Diego Padres have announced an extension for righthander Cory Luebke. The deal is for four guaranteed years and $12-million [Tom Krasovic, Inside the Padres/Twitter] with two team option for 2016 and 2017 that could see the deal top out at $27.75-million [Corey Brock, MLB.com/Twitter]. Luebke was the Padres best pitcher in 2011, finishing with an impressive 9.92/2.84/0.77 pitcher slash line in 46 appearances, including 17 starts during his first full big-league year. He is, however, already 27-years-old and has never shown the ability to strike out that many hitters in the minors.
Livan Hernandez was released by the Astros yesterday (pause for laughter…) and then quickly signed by the Atlanta Braves where he’ll act as a swingman [Ken Rosenthal, Twitter].
Sam Miller, now of Baseball Prospectus (!!) takes a look at Bobby Abreu’s recent bout of mykyungitude and why everyone’s job sucks [Sam Miller, Baseball Prospectus].
Is Brett Cecil on his way out of the Blue Jays rotation for good? [Ryan Campbell, FanGraphs].