Trade Market: Alex Gordon Available?

Gordon may be one of the more underrated players in baseball.

Alex Gordon signed a contract extension with Kansas City this past March, but apparently Dayton Moore and the Royals front office are listening to trade offers for the young left fielder. In fact, they’re listening on quite pretty much all of their young offensive talent (Hosmer, Moustakas, Butler, etc.). Gordon, however, is probably the most attractive for the Yankees as he fits their needs. He won’t come cheap, however, and it’s not secret the Royals are dying for some good young pitching.

Gordon signed an extremely team friendly extension last spring, earning him up to $50 million over five years (this extension included the 2012 season). The guaranteed money going forward is three years and $31.5 million, with a $12.5 million dollar team option in 2016. He’ll be just 32 in 2016, and considering he’s coming off a 6.9 WAR 2011 and 5.9 WAR 2012, this contract would be an incredible value for any team. However, it is a backloaded deal: he’ll earn $9 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014, and then $12.5 million in 2015 (with the 2016 $12.5 million option, of course). Still, the money is extremely favorable for a player of Gordon’s caliber.

Considering the team-friendly contract and the possibility that his value is at it’s highest, perhaps Kansas City is serious about moving him. Besides, guys like Moustakas and Hosmer can stay under KC’s control for longer and cheaper than Gordon at this current time.

Gordon has only suffered through one major injury in his career, undergoing hip labrum surgery in 2009. Considering his 2011 and 2012 performances, there’s no doubt he’s past any concerns about health. He’s only been on the DL two other times in his career (2010 – thumb fracture, and 2008 – quad strain).

There really isn’t anything else to have concern about regarding Gordon. Yes, he’s only played 25 career innings in right field (in 2010), but his remarkable defensive ability in left field undoubtedly would transition well to replacing Swisher in right. Over three seasons in left field, Gordon has racked up 47 defensive runs saved (~5 wins) and posted an impressive 10.3 UZR/150. He also has 39 assists from left field during that span. Don’t like these stats? Gordon has won a Gold Glove each of the past two seasons.

His offensive ability? Not too shabby: a career 112 wRC+, including 141 and 126 the past two seasons. His power declined from 2011 to 2012 (23 HRs to 11, .200 ISO to .160), but he’s cut down on strikeouts (22.1% in 2010, 20.1% 2011, and 19.4% in 2012). No, those aren’t ideal strikeout rates, but they’re certainly trending in the right direction. Gordon also takes his free passes: a career BB% just a hair under 10%. Interestingly, his BABIP has skyrocketed the past two seasons to seemingly unsustainable levels above .350, but his batted ball data indicates that it may be sustainable. He’s hitting the ball on the nose much more frequently, while cutting down significantly on fly balls which result in the lowest BABIP.

Gordon, a left-handed hitter, does have a noticeable career platoon split (122 wRC+ vs. righties, 89 wRC+ vs. lefties). Although this is an initial concern, we have seen Kevin Long work wonders in a worse platoon split situation with Curtis Granderson. Hopefully, though, if a trade were to happen, Long wouldn’t make him a K machine (only half kidding). More importantly, I would be worried about Gordon becoming pull happy considering he posted his best wRAA hitting balls to the opposite and center field this past season.

Gordon makes a lot of sense for the Yankees going forward. If you thought Nick Swisher’s contract was team friendly (which it was), Gordon’s would be even better for the Yanks. His AAV would be an $11 million hit on the Yanks luxury tax total, which is an exceptional value moving forward towards the 2014 austerity budget. It would make either trading or letting Granderson walk after 2013 a whole lot easier. Besides salary implications, let’s not forget how good of a player Gordon has become, and the fact that the Yankees would have him through his prime years (29-32).

All that being said, the Yankees aren’t going to simply get Gordon for nothing. His age, contract, and ability make him a superb trade chip for the Royals. As I mentioned, Kansas City really needs pitching, as they’ve struggled to have anyone come through in recent memory. They do have some young guys on the horizon, like Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery, although Montgomery struggled in the minors the past two years.

To be quite honest, I’m not too optimistic about the Yankees being a match in this deal. The only major league quality starter the Yankees can offer who’s under control for a few years would be Ivan Nova, and I suppose David Phelps too. The Royals may be interested in either of those guys, but it’s going to take a lot more than that.

That being said, acquiring a guy who has racked up 13 wins in the last two seasons, is a superb defender, and a very good hitter in his prime may be worth such a package. He’s the perfect fit for the Yankees goals of staying competitive while working around the $189 million austerity budget.

Photo By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Contract and injury data via www.baseballprospectus.com. Other statistics courtesy of www.fangraphs.com.

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