Alex Gordon has signed with the Kansas City Royals on a 4 year, $72 million contract. If I am somehow breaking this news to you, then by all means take a moment to celebrate.
Ok. Done? Good.
For the rest of you who already know this, then you're probably into the next stage of processing: what does this deal mean? Is it a good deal? The quick answer is that, yes, this is a very good deal. Gordon is an excellent and underrated player, and even beyond emotional attachments to ALEX GORDON he was the perfect free agent to fill one of the corner outfield holes. You'll see more analysis about it as time goes on here, so stay tuned.
Gordon is also the type of premier free agent that has slipped through David Glass and Dayton Moore's stingy claws in years past. But these are the World Champion Royals, and things are different. Gordon's signing actually helps to clear up a lot of things and shine light on the Royals near and far future. These are the four major implications of Alex Gordon, Forever Royal:
Glass and Moore are prepared to pay for top talent
Moore inked Gordon to the largest contract in Kansas City Royals history. At $72 million, it races past the previous high of $55 million, a record shared between Mike Sweeney and Gil Meche, by $17 million.
After Meche, Moore has utilized a bevy of low-cost free agent signings to compliment his core. This type of low-risk, high-reward helped give him Jeff Franceour (the first time), Melky Cabrera, Chris Young, and Kris Medlen. It also netted him Omar Infante, Jason Vargas, Jeff Franceour (the second time), Jason Kendall, Alex Rios, and Kyle Farnsworth. A mixed bag, to be sure, but none of those contracts has debilitated financial flexibility.
Judging from what Moore and Glass said at the onset of this offseason, it was not even clear that the Royals would ever sign someone to a large contract. Doing a quick search for 'Dayton Moore financial flexibility' yields many results from the past few years where Moore has stressed just that.
So Gordon's signing represents a shift of sorts: financial flexibility can take a backseat if the right free agent came along, or the right trade target opened up, or the right extension signed. Just as Moore broke his midseason streak of boring nothingness by acquiring Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto for a World Series run, Moore has disembarked from his previous track record.
And that is to say nothing of Glass' approval of a $72 million. This is a very big deal.
Moore is leaning heavily on the 2016-2017 competitive window
There will be an Exodus in 2018. After the 2017 season, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy, Mike Moustakas, Kelvin Herrera, Jarrod Dyson, Jason Vargas, Omar Infante, Alcides Escobar, and Wade Davis will all enter free agency at the same time. That places a heavy emphasis on the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the final two seasons that Moore's Core (R) will be together. Oh, and they will get collectively more expensive through the arbitration process. O frabjous day!
There are three approaches to this problem. One, go for a hard rebuild, by trading talent for minor leaguers this year in order to speed up the process for the 'next wave.' Two, go for a soft rebuild, by cashing in on maybe a player or two at their peak value over the next two years, but keeping the rest of the core together. Three, ride it out, go hard for two more World Series titles, and deal with the fallout later.
It would seem with this move that Moore is interested in the latter. The farm system is very thin, and long-term plans are far too reliant on Bubba Starling, Raul Mondesi, and Kyle Zimmer, all of whom have pretty major question marks in their file. Gordon is a big investment, and it signifies that the Royals are very much interested in competing for more titles over any rebuild process.
Moore is serious about filling right field internally, and serious about getting another starting pitcher
With all the money assigned to Gordon, it's pretty unlikely that Moore is going to go out and get another major free agent outfielder. A month ago at the winter meetings, he said that he was looking at giving Jarrod Dyson and other internal options more playing time and consideration:
Dayton Moore tells us that Jarrod Dyson is likely to get one of the corner outfield spots. #Royals— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) December 8, 2015
It seems like a foolish utilization of resources to acquire another outfielder when the Royals possess minor league depth such as Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez, and Bubba Starling, all of whom were added to the Royals' 40 man roster this winter.
And, with Gordon's contract reportedly backloaded and containing some deferred money, it seems that Kansas City is keeping their eyes on the pitching market, looking to snap up one of the many mid-tier or bounceback candidates like Mat Latos, Yovani Gallardo, and Cliff Lee. That would improve their rotation and their bullpen (by allowing Duffy to transform into another likely elite reliever).
Gordon's return is equal parts fascinating, rewarding, and exciting. Regardless of what it means, let's enjoy it.