Alex Gordon is a beautiful butterfly of a human being, if the butterfly was extraordinarily adept at playing baseball and had bicep muscles the size of an ox. He is a National Treasure, and a little known fact is that Nicolas Cage was inspired to accept the leading part in the movie of the same name after watching Gordon play.
Everyone knows that one guy or girl who is just too good at everything. You know--the dude who can nonchalantly beat you in a game of Halo, chess, and hoops, who is also the guy who just re-read Moby Dick for fun (but prefers Redburn, of course), who is also the guy who dances with the grace of an an elf and the strength of not an elf.
Gordon is that guy, an overflowing cornucopia of baseball skills. His work ethic is unmatched, his athleticism elite, his route-running impeccable, his baserunning efficient, his plate discipline wise, his arm indomitable, his focus unflappable. He's a local kid, too, with kids of his own, and is active in the community alongside his spotless record.
Basically, if you're a Baseball God and you're designing a player, Gordon would be exactly what you would design (after creating Chris Young because 7-footers with 88 MPH fastballs are hilarious). Since 2011, Gordon has been the ninth-best player in baseball by Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement. If he had not been injured this year for two months, he would probably be sixth on that list. Gordon has been an elite player, and if you don't understand that, you probably don't understand much how baseball works.
The Royals, of course, are smitten with Gordon. After growing up together and attending George Brett High School together, they even decided to go to the same college together in 2012, when Gordon and the Royals agreed on a four-year extension. Now, they've both graduated, and Kansas City and Alex must decide what they're going to do with their lives.
Kansas City has so much to offer Gordon - comfort, great barbecue, nostalgia, love, and a nice personality. But Gordon has the world at his fingertips, and has accomplished so much with Kansas City. If Gordon wants to move on and spread his majestic wings, they will both be sad. But maybe it's for the best; "If you love me let me go," as they say. Or maybe it's, "Don't say it can't get worse." Unclear.
Dayton Moore and the Royals have no idea how to court Gordon, though. They are utterly clueless, and their waffling about the issue is infuriating.
Just sign him already, for the love of Wade Davis and all that is good in this world.
The Royals are working tremendously hard to seem ambivalently uninterested, in the same way that Fred from economics frantically looks everywhere but his crush as she walks by, nervously humming the tune to Don't You Forget About Me. "We have options," the Royals think. "Look at all those fish in the sea! Not the Marlins, necessarily, but actually we're interested in some of them, too. We just won a thing! Everyone wants me. I have options. Psshh, Gordon is just one of many. No, I don't want another mimosa. Actually, I'll have 1738 of them."
In their frenetic search for a new date, they've looked everywhere for options. Here's a list of all the outfielders the Royals have been linked to over the course of the offseason:
Ben Zobrist, Todd Frazier, Nick Markakis, Willie Wonka, Marcell Ozuna, Carlos Gonzalez, Denard Span, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Charley Blackmon, Jeff Goldblum's character from The Fly, Corey Dickerson, Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra, and Travis Snider*.
*In addition, there have been other names mentioned that would be good fits with the Royals though no discussion about them has surfaced--these names include Wil Myers, Yasiel Puig, and Ender Inciarte.
Now, there are reasons why the Royals wouldn't pursue Gordon. For all his strengths, and they are many, he is on the downward slope of his career. At 32 years old, his best days are almost certainly behind him. But guys like Gordon tend to age well due to their athleticism and expansive skillset. Father Time strikes everyone at some point, but the more strengths you have, the better.
Picture a player as a chord. Chris Davis, for instance, is an open-fifth power chord, impossible to miss. His baseball strength is power, but that's it. Should Father Time strike down his power as he ages, Davis becomes a bland, one-note player. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon is a gloriously in-tune major chord--G Major, of course. Should he lose a note to the gaping maw of time, he could still function as a pleasant major third.
It's not like a Gordon return to Kansas City is a nonstarter for him. There's every reason to believe he would do something reasonable to work with the Royals--like taking a few million less to sign with a team with which he is comfortable, as Ben Zobrist did with the Chicago Cubs, or by giving the Royals the chance to match an offer from elsewhere, as Billy Butler did with the Oakland Athletics.
But Gordon is not going to leave tens of millions of dollars on the table because he likes Kansas City, as the mere concept of taking less money in free agency is a lot more difficult than you might think. As our own Tyler Drennon wrote in the Hardball Times:
As far as the market’s primary commodities are concerned, things have gotten extremely complicated. To drive up the the median salary, every player is encouraged by the players union to seek the most money possible, no matter the scenario. When fans hear about players taking a "hometown discount" to stay with a team they enjoy playing for — even though the club might not have the financial flexibility to offer a deal competitive with the open market — they tend to champion these players as selfless heroes.
In actuality, players (like Cliff Lee ca. 2010) are acting in the best interests of team ownership by doing so — and subsequently stunting the potential earnings power of the next group of free agents (and the next, and the next, and so on). In other words, they are acting selfishly — as far as the MLBPA is concerned. Ownership has always used every ounce of its capital obesity to lean on the players and collect as much of the profits as possible while arguably contributing very little by "owning" the team.Unfortunately, this creates a very real "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" scenario for modern free agents.
So, this is all on the Royals, who are playing coy by expressing interest in other outfielders and low-balling him with a paycut salary. Alternatively, the Royals aren't even discussing figures with Gordon. Alternatively alternatively, maybe the Royals are spending time with Hyperloop research and development so that they can somehow create even more ridiculous relievers. This is also unclear.
What is clear is that the Royals don't have an alternative to Gordon, in-house or otherwise. They've got a bevy of reasonably interesting AAAA outfielders and Bubba Starling slow-cooking in Arkansas, but that's playing chicken with only one outfield spot open, let alone two. This is, lest anyone forget, the 2015 World Series Champions. Throwing a gaggle of inexperienced outfielders at the wall and seeing if they stick is more of an event for the 2015 World's Strongest Man Champion. And sure, the Royals could trade for someone or sign somebody else, but both options have significant downsides--not the least of which that neither option will come close to replicating Gordon's excellence.
So the Royals are aggressively attempting to maybe perhaps be somewhat uninterestedly fascinated by Alex Gordon, who can at any point do a donut in his truck and peel off, leaving Kansas City in the dust for newer, more lucrative things.
Or the Royals could just decide to deal with it, confess their undying love to Gordon, and agree to a reasonable contract that assures that Gordon will become a Legend. Then they can do donuts into the truck and peel off into the sunset together.