Four follow-up points on today's Alex Gordon column
The Kansas City Star
Here’s the column, if you haven’t read it. This is absolutely critical to the Royals’ future for lots of reasons, including symbolism.
A few points I either couldn’t or didn’t get in the column:
1) The reason this is especially important right now is layered. Long-term deals are typically done right now, when the player has two years left before hitting free agency. This seems to be the right balancing point between the club feeling confident about what the player is, and the player wanting financial security.
Do it earlier than this, you’re not as sure what you’re getting. Do it later than this, and the player is more tempted to enter free agency.
For whatever it’s worth, the contracts the Royals did with Billy Butler and Zack Greinke were both signed in January with two years of club-control remaining. This is January, obviously, and Gordon has two years of club-control remaining.
2) I still believe this will get done, though I’m significantly less optimistic than I was two months ago.
The reasons I’m optimistic: the Royals have gone three-for-three in signing their best homegrown players to long-term contracts, and this one makes more sense than any of the others. There is a stronger mutual appreciation between Alex Gordon and the Royals than what I sensed with Joakim Soria, Billy Butler or Zack Greinke.
^ Greinke may be an exception, actually, but today is Jan. 18, 2012 and it’s hard to go back in time and honestly see where that relationship was three years ago when the deal got done.
3) The four years and $35 million I suggested in the column is nothing more than my own guess. Could be lower, could be higher, but here’s how I got there: $5 million for 2012^, $8 million for 2013 and $11 million for each of the two years of free agency the Royals would be buying.
^ Based on the Royals offer of $4.15 million in arbitration and Gordon’s counter of $5.45 million.
If it was me, I’d structure the contract to pay Gordon up front. A signing bonus, big salary for 2012. From the Royals’ side, that takes advantage of current flexibility that won’t be there once Eric Hosmer and the others get more expensive. For Gordon, money now is always a good thing.
Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the total went higher than $35, but I do think this is close to a number that makes sense for each side. Gordon gets security, and a bigger contract than the one Butler signed, for instance.
4) All this said, I do understand why the contract is taking so long. Alex has had a wild career already. He was everybody’s favorite for Rookie of the Year, then injuries and self-doubt and a lot of other factors drove him to two miserable seasons and even a demotion to the minor leagues.
Then last year, of course, he was the Royals’ best player (wasn’t close, either) and the best leftfielder in baseball.
Gordon wants to be paid based on last year. The Royals are looking more at what he’s done as a whole, over four years. It’s a difficult situation, as these negotiations often are.
But here’s one last point: unless Gordon asks for an outrageous number, if the Royals don’t get a long-term deal done, they are effectively betting against him.