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Royals to decline option on Alex Gordon, making him a free agent

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The Royals buy out the Gold Glove outfielder for $4 million.

Oakland Athletics v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As expected, the Royals will decline a $23 million mutual option for Alex Gordon, instead opting to buy him out for $3.5 million and making him a free agent, according to reporter Jon Heyman. (Update: The Royals have made it official). Gordon could still return on a new contract. He has said he plans to decide this off-season whether he wants to play another season. The Royals have not given an indication whether they would want to bring him back.

Gordon rebounded with the bat in 2019, posting a 96 wRC+, his highest number since 2015. The 35-year old hit .266/.345/.396 with 13 home runs, 31 doubles, and 51 walks in 150 games. He has been a disappointment offensively since signing his four-year, $72 million contract before the 2016 season, hitting .237/.320/.366 over that time.

Despite a slumping bat, Gordon has still contributed with his glove. He is fifth among all outfielders in UZR since 2016 and has been worth 2.9 WAR combined over the past two seasons, according to Fangraphs. Gordon has won six Gold Gloves, including awards the last two seasons, and is a finalist again this season.

If the Royals bring Alex Gordon back, it will probably be on a one-year deal worth between $4-8 million. He has already said that the Royals are the only team he wants to play for, which cuts his leverage quite a bit. But he is also very close with General Manager Dayton Moore - Alex wrote the forward for Dayton’s book More Than a Season - so I would not expect much of a stand-off over salary.

The Royals already have Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Brett Phillips, and Bubba Starling in their outfield, and prospect Khalil Lee could be ready at some point next season. Alex Gordon could provide a good role model for the younger players, although he has never been known as a hands-on leader in the clubhouse. And any at-bats given to Gordon next year might be better used on evaluating younger players who are more likely to be part of the future in Kansas City. Gordon has not given a timetable for his decision, and earlier this summer he said he was leaning towards returning.