After being a member of the Kansas City Royals for 13 years, making three All-Star team appearances, winning four Gold Gloves, and winning a World Series, Alex Gordon is a free agent.
According to Jon Heyman, the Royals might be looking to bring him back at a “rate that makes sense.” But until a deal is inked, Gordon is open for speculation.
Gordon, who has spent almost most of the last several seasons at left field, has been a well above average defender for the bulk of his career. While he has naturally regressed with age — he turns 36 in February — he would still be the best outfielder on the Tigers in 2019.
Left field is not necessarily a need for the Tigers as Christin Stewart is tentatively penciled into the position for 2020. That said, it has been speculated Stewart might be better off at first base, as well as taking the designated hitter slot when Miguel Cabrera is absent. This move would be for good reason considering Stewart’s -12.2 UZR/150 in left field during his rookie season.
Gordon committed just one error in 146 games in left field in 2019, showing that not only was he durable, but he also steady. The only Detroit fielder to play at least 100 games in the field last season was Niko Goodrum, who committed 15 errors in 107 games.
So Gordon would be an upgrade in the field. How about his bat?
While he obviously has regressed since his prime years, Gordon is still pretty capable at the plate.
While power has never been his main draw, Gordon’s 13 home runs in 2019 would have been the most out of any full-time Tigers outfielder (though a healthy JaCoby Jones might have have eclipsed that.)
His 51 walks, while nothing spectacular, would have led the team. His .345 OBP and .741 OPS would have been in the upper echelon among Detroit players as well. Gordon’s fWAR came out to 1.3 in 2019 which would have been the third highest among Tigers hitters behind Niko Goodrum and Victor Reyes.
Keep in mind that Detroit’s lineup consistently ranked at the bottom of MLB leaderboards in many statistics, so these numbers do not necessarily mean Gordon lit things up, but he was definitely serviceable. This is in part thanks to lowering his career K% of 21.2 percent to just 15.8 percent. His ground ball percentage spiked to 46.2 percent from a career 40.3 percent, but his hard hit percentage jumped to 38.9 percent from his career 32.8
Then there is the ever-present “mentor” argument. As one of the more experienced veterans in baseball and plenty of time around both young players and winning cultures, Gordon could provide his well-documented leadership to Detroit’s bevy of young outfielders.
The moral of the story: Gordon is a better outfielder than most current Tigers. He is still a decent hitter. He is a positive clubhouse influence.
Would he be the best free agent acquisition the Tigers could make? No, though he might be one of the most realistic options available. Would it be fun to see a mishmash of Ron Gardenhire, Alex Gordon and another longtime AL Central free agent target on the same team for a full season? Abso-freaking-lutely.
Would he be worth a one-year deal? Potentially, though it remains to be seen of the Tigers would be willing to make him a better offer than whatever the Royals have in mind.