Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

alex gordon royalsKansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon has come up around here this week a couple times, once one the strength of his dramatic, game-tying homer in the 9th inning of Game One of the World Series, and another on the strength of a Nick Cafardo column that had his possible free agent price tag down in an extremely attractive range. On the latter, I commented, “One interesting bit was the thinking that Alex Gordon might be in the three-year, $36-$38 million range, which seems like an absolute steal, even for a glove-first corner outfielder.”

I still have a hard time believing that Gordon, even after considering that he’ll turn 32 in February, would get so little on the open market, but the first step is him actually reaching the open market. For one thing, Gordon has a $12.5 million player option for 2016, though he’s expected to decline that option. Then, Gordon will be made a qualifying offer by the Royals, worth $15.8 million for 2016. He’ll presumably decline that one, too. Then, he’d have to resist re-signing an extension with the only organization he’s ever known, where he’s clearly very happy.

If that all happens, then he’s going to make for a very interesting free agent case.

Joel Sherman reports that, yes, Gordon is expected to decline his player option, and he’d figure to be in line for a four or five-year deal. Further, Sherman hears the Cubs, Astros, and Red Sox discussed as possible suitors for the lefty hitter, though Sherman says it should be a “deep field,” and the Red Sox get most of the focus in Sherman’s piece (with the interesting aside that maybe they shop center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., after his strong finish to the year). I think you have to keep the Royals in there, too, given the historical connection he has with the organization.

Gordon posted a .271/.377/.432 line this year, good for his second consecutive season with a 122 wRC+. A former top prospect who required some up-and-down in the high minors before really settling into himself a few seasons ago, Gordon has consistently been an above-average bat in recent years, and an excellent defender in left field. The Cubs, for their part, have indicated a desire to improve defensively in the outfield this offseason.

While certainly accomplishing that particular goal, you have to ask: is Gordon the right fit? He’s exclusively played left field in the last four years, has played only three big league games in right field (back in 2010), and has never appeared in center field. The Cubs’ most obvious outfield need, of course, is center field, what with Dexter Fowler likely to depart in free agency, and the possible need for the Cubs to allow Kyle Schwarber to keep playing semi-regularly in left field. Throw in Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan and the possibility that Kris Bryant could see time in the outfield, too, and it’s a bit crowded at the corner outfield spots.

As we’ve seen with this front office before, sometimes they like to target a player they want and then sort out the details later. Further, by adding a desirable player in free agency at a position of possible redundancy, the Cubs could be creating an even more tradable asset elsewhere. In other words, signing a guy like Gordon for cash, only, could allow the Cubs to move a younger offensive player for a controlled, impact arm – i.e., a guy they *can’t* otherwise acquire for cash, only.

Until and unless we get something a little more solid on the Cubs and Gordon, I don’t want to go too far down this path. Suffice it to say, in terms of the type of player Gordon is – great defense, some power, good contact rate, takes walks – he’s an obvious fit for this Cubs team. The details, though, make it a little fuzzier.

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