With the first couple days of the offseason under wraps, we are officially into the thick of trade rumor season. First up? The defending American League champion Kansas City Royals, who may be willing to move Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. Given that Hosmer and Moustakas were worth a combined 1.1 WAR in 2014, Gordon is the prize here. Can the Tigers get him?
*2015 Steamer projection
Who is he?
Once the next coming of George Brett, Gordon has settled into his current role as one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball. Gordon was originally drafted as a third baseman in 2005. He made his MLB debut in 2007, when he compiled 2.0 WAR in 151 games. After another solid season in 2008, he missed a lot of the 2009 and 2010 seasons with injuries before transitioning to the outfield. He was worth a career-high 6.6 WAR in 2014 after hitting .266/.351/.432 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI. Gordon will be 31 years old on Opening Day in 2015.
Why should we care?
Since shifting to left field full-time in 2011, Gordon has amassed 22.3 WAR. He has excelled in all facets of the game, but is best known for his outstanding defense. Gordon has won three consecutive Gold Gloves and will probably pick up his fourth after leading the American League with a whopping 27 defensive runs saved in 2014. He was tied for 11th in the American League with eight assists, but this may be because teams have learned their lesson. Gordon had thrown out 17 baserunners in each of the previous three seasons. His 62 assists since the start of the 2011 season are far and away the highest total in baseball.
Gordon has also hit .283/.356/.453 during the past four seasons. He gets extra base hits in bunches, including a league-leading 51 doubles in 2012. Gordon homered 19 times last year, the third time he has done so since 2011. If we go back to his days at third base, he has five seasons with 15 home runs or more. He has even been a threat on the basepaths, stealing 50 bases in 69 attempts and rating 15.9 runs above average during his four year run in the outfield.
Why should we stay away?
Barring a complete disaster in 2015, Gordon will likely decline his $12.5 million player option for the 2016 season and become a free agent. This lone year of club control is a fairly safe bet to be highly valuable -- Gordon has been worth 5.6 WAR or more in three of the past four years -- but the supposedly cash-strapped Tigers probably should not be parting with any more young, cost-controlled talent. There is a silver lining, though. If a trade happens during the offseason and a team ends up with Gordon for the entire 2015 season, they will be able to extend him a qualifying offer and recoup the compensatory draft pick during the next offseason.
As we noted with Melky Cabrera, this move would also likely signal that the team is comfortable with some combination of Rajai Davis and other outfielders within the system manning center field. Gordon is a far better defender than Cabrera, though, and would take some pressure off whoever is in center. However, Gordon's expiring contract will put the Tigers in a similar bind next season, but without the small luxury of having Davis available for either outfield spot. Picking up Gordon makes sense for a win-now team like the Tigers, but an already shaky future would become even more unstable.
Every year, a rumor circulates that the Royals are interested in trading Alex Gordon. It may be slightly more likely to happen this year as the team retools after losing James Shields and paying several arbitration raises, but the Tigers probably don't have the prospects to make this happen. The Royals would not be too keen on trading Gordon within the division, either. Odds are Gordon spends one more year in Kansas City before testing the waters of free agency in 2015.