After a decade as a Royal, Alex Gordon will test the open market.
Gordon, the longest-tenured Royal, declined his $14 million player option for 2016. He can sign with any team starting Friday as a free agent.
The decision does not come as a surprise. Midway through 2014, Gordon told The Star he intended to pick up his option for 2016, but he softened that stance during spring training. He played through the World Series championship this postseason aware that his time as a Royal may be drawing to a close.
The Royals would like to re-sign Gordon. Gordon would like to remain a Royal. The only thing standing between both sides finding a happy resolution is a contract larger than the Royals have ever before granted in free agency. The market for Gordon is expected to be sizable, with teams such as Baltimore, Boston and Houston, among plenty of others, speculated as possible landing spots.
Gordon could command a five-year contract worth as much as $20 million per season, according to rival executives. The Royals would prefer a shorter deal, in deference to both Gordon’s age (he turns 32 next season) and the rising costs of teammates Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas. Team officials have suggested it will be up to ownership to decide if Gordon is worth the expense.
Confetti still littered the streets of Kansas City on Wednesday, a day after a historic, euphoric parade to celebrate the championship. But already the organization has shifted toward the business of 2016, declining mutual options on pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and outfielder Alex Rios, sending both into free agency.
Neither decision came for free. The Royals owe Guthrie $3.2 million for the buyout; the club owes Rios $1.5 million.
It is unlikely the Royals will pursue reunions with either player. But Gordon is a franchise pillar. He predates general manager Dayton Moore with the organization.
The Royals selected Gordon with the second pick of the 2005 draft. He grew up in Lincoln, Neb., trekking down Interstate 29 to catch games at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals stuck with Gordon after his failed stint as a third baseman and watched him become the best left fielder in baseball.
Gordon has won four consecutive Gold Gloves in left, and another is expected for 2016. Since 2011, Gordon has averaged 18 homers, 72 RBIs and an .809 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has made the American League All-Star team for three years in a row.
But Gordon has not been healthy enough to play in the last two Midsummer Classics. His recent injury history could give the Royals reason for concern in handing out a long-term deal. Gordon underwent wrist surgery last winter. In July, he suffered a severe groin strain that cost him two months.
Upon his return, Gordon looked creakier than usual in the field. His speed has slipped somewhat. But he still provided some of the finest moments in this World Series run.
He plated the go-ahead run in a frenetic comeback over the Astros in Game 4 of the division series. He roped a crucial RBI double off Toronto ace David Price in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. And in the first game of the World Series, he launched a massive homer off Mets closer Jeurys Familia that tied the score in the bottom of the ninth.
That night at Kauffman Stadium may have been Gordon’s second to last home game as a Royal. No matter where he signs, his legacy with the franchise is secure.