Royals decline Alex Gordon’s $23 million option, make veteran a free agent

The Kansas City Royals declined their mutual option on the contract of veteran left fielder Alex Gordon, the club announced on Friday. Gordon had been the team’s longest-tenured and highest-paid player.

Gordon, who has not announced whether he intends to retire, exercised his mutual option for 2020 that would have paid him $23 million. He became a free agent when the Royals declined the option.

The Royals’ decision to decline decline Gordon’s option was not unexpected. Gordon, 35, acknowledged as much as recently as the final week of the season when he said if he returned it would likely be contingent on a renegotiated one-year deal.

Prior to the 2016 season, Gordon signed a franchise-record four-year, $72 million contract that included the fifth-year mutual option and a $4 million buyout, the remaining $3.5 million of which will be paid by January 15.

Gordon, a Nebraska native and former second overall pick out of the University of Nebraska in 2005, declared multiple times this season that he doesn’t want to play for any other franchise if he does return for 2020.

Gordon has spent his entire professional career with the Royals, including parts of 13 major league seasons.

A three-time All-Star, he’s posted a career slash line of .258/.339/.413. This past season, he slashed .266/.345/.396. Gordon’s 76 RBIs were his most since 2013, and his 31 doubles and 150 games were his most since 2014.

A six-time Gold Glove winner, he’s a finalist for the award again this year. Winners will be announced on Sunday.

The Royals introduced Mike Matheny as the new manager and successor to Ned Yost on Thursday. Gordon previously stated that Yost’s retirement wouldn’t make or break his decision whether to return for a 14th season.

“It does factor in a little bit, but still this organization has meant everything to me, Dayton has meant everything to me,” Gordon said in September. “It’s not like just because Ned is leaving it’s going to have a yes or no answer on that.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.