The Royals have made it clear that contrary to opinions a month ago, they will definitely be buyers this summer, rather than sellers. With the trade deadline just three weeks away, trade rumors are beginning to heat up, with the Royals mentioned as potential suitors. This week, FanRag reporter Jon Heyman writes that Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon is drawing interest from a number of clubs, including the Royals who “have long been enamored” with him.
The 29-year old is the son of former Royals pitcher Tom Gordon, and would certainly fit the mold of a Royals player with his speed and high-contact approach. Gordon hit .333/.359/.418 with 58 steals and a 4.7 WAR season in 2015, according to Fangraphs, but was hit with an 80-game suspension the next year for testing positive for two banned substances - exogenous testosterone and clostebol. The Royals have been linked to him before, reportedly discussing acquiring him for outfielder Justin Maxwell back in 2013.
Gordon has rebounded from a disappointing 2016 to hit .295/.342/.358 this year with 32 steals and 1.7 WAR so far. Over the last three seasons he has the eighth-lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 14.2%. However he has the fifth-lowest walk-rate in baseball over that time at 4.3%. He also has the third-highest BABIP in baseball in those years at .356.
Gordon is in the third year of a long-term deal that will pay him about $3 million the remainder of this season, and $37 million over the next three seasons. There is also a club option that could pay him $14 million in 2021, although the option can become guaranteed if Gordon reaches 600 plate appearances in 2020 or 1,200 between 2019 and 2020. Heyman writes that the Marlins would “presumably have to offset some of Gordon’s deal” which could make him more affordable for the cost-conscious Royals.
The Royals are already getting good production at second base from Whit Merrifield, so the report of them being interested in Gordon is a bit questionable. Gordon has played 162 games at shortstop at the MLB level, but he has played just two games there the past three seasons combined. Perhaps the Royals would prefer Merrifield in more of a utility role, with Gordon as the leadoff hitter they have been coveting.
The Marlins seemingly have a history of asking for lower-rated prospects to move salary, so despite a thin farm system, the Royals may have the prospects required to get him. But with so few trade assets, would this really be the best use of their resources, considering needs in the rotation and bullpen? Perhaps the Royals see the leadoff spot as a pressing issue, since they have gotten the worst production from the top spot in baseball by a large margin, even with Merrifield hitting there. Heyman reports the Angels and Blue Jays - neither of which are contending much this year - are also interested in Gordon as a long-term asset.