Alex Gordon’s on-field resurgence at age 35 certainly has him thinking that he’s got more baseball left in him after this season, but his ability to play may not be the ultimate deciding factor. Whether or not he’ll be able to stay with the Royals will play a big part in his decision this offseason, as will the outlook of the club.
Gordon is in the final year of his four-year, $72 million contract, and there’s a mutual option for next season worth $23 million. Financially, it makes sense for the Royals to decline the option, but that wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of Gordon re-signing with the club.
Of course, Gordon’s potential return hinges on his desire to continue playing as much as the club’s willingness to bring him back and finish out his career in Kansas City. Neither decision is clear at this point, and they may not be until this fall.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore’s stance since spring training has been that Gordon’s future will be addressed after the season.
The most honest answer Gordon has to offer in mid-May?
He simply doesn’t know.
Gordon recently told MLB.com that he was leaning toward playing past this season, but didn’t want to play for any other franchise.
Friday in the dugout at Angel Stadium prior to the series opener of a Royals-Angels three-game series, Gordon said he’s not much closer to a decision than he’d been back in spring training.
Gordon, a Nebraska native and former star at the University of Nebraska, reiterated that he doesn’t want to play anywhere other than for the Royals, and added, “When I say there’s a lot of things to consider, that’s one of them. I honestly, I don’t really know. My wife doesn’t know. My family doesn’t know.”
The fact that he’s having his best offensive season in several years only fuels his desire to continue playing past this season.
Gordon entered Friday night’s game batting .289 with a .378 OBP and a .526 slugging percentage. His eight home runs are just one shy of his total in 148 games in 2017. His batting average hadn’t climbed above .250 for a season since 2015. He has a career slash line of .258/.340/.418.
Physically, Gordon said he feels as good as he has in years, if not better. Changes to his training and his workload during the season both on the field and in the weight room have left him feeling more athletic, more flexible and pain-free during the daily grind of the season thus far.
“It just kind of reiterates that you can still play this game and you can still play at this level, so it gives you confidence in that regard,” Gordon said. “I do feel rejuvenated where ‘16 was kind of a struggle. I was hurt with the broken wrist. I still did alright, but 17 was a down year.”
Gordon’s own ability to play won’t be the sole factor. In fact, the play of his teammates and the outlook for the Royals going into next season may weigh nearly as heavily in Gordon’s mind.
“I want to see this team keep improving and keep kind of seeing what I saw with us a few years ago in ‘12 and ‘13 where we struggled but I definitely saw the talent coming up,” Gordon said. “Given their experience and their confidence, I definitely see some similarities. I don’t want to come back and lose. I want to come back and win. So that’s also a factor.
“There’s a lot of things that come into play, but I do like where this team is headed. I’m not really happy about where we’re at right now because I feel like we’re a lot better team than what our record shows.”
The Royals begin their weekend series on the West Coast having not won a series since April 12-14 against Cleveland. They started an infield this week with an average age of 24.5 after second baseman Nicky Lopez made his major-league debut.
According to Fox Sports Kansas City associate producer Dave Holtzman, the last time the Royals boasted a younger group on the infield was in 2012 with a group that included Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella and Alcides Escobar.
Adalberto Mondesi, a 23-year-old budding star shortstop, entered this weekend ranked third in the American League in RBIs, while Hunter Dozier ranked seventh in OPS ahead of Houston’s All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman. Next season, the Royals should also be bolstered by the return of All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, who had season-ending surgery during spring training.
“Nicky Lopez, Dozier, even though (Ryan) O’Hearn is not swinging it that great, we still believe in him,” Gordon said. “We know he’s going to come out of it. Everybody goes through things like this. There’s just a lot of pieces to be excited about.”