In a move that looked uncertain to happen at times this offseason but has appeared extremely likely for the last several weeks, the Royals are bringing back veteran outfielder Alex Gordon for a 14th season. The team announced Wednesday that it has re-signed Gordon to a one-year deal, and MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports that it’s a $4 million agreement:
Per source, Alex Gordon and the Royals have agreed on a one-year deal for $4 million for 2020. Gordo is back.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) January 22, 2020
Gordon, 35, has had some rough stretches over the past half-decade, especially in 2017. For what it’s worth, he did have somewhat of a bounce-back season in 2019, hitting .266/.345/.396 with 13 homers for his highest OPS (.741) and OPS+ (96) since the Royals won the World Series in 2015. He also remained a standout defender and won his third straight Gold Glove in left field.
More importantly, though, he’s ranked as the most valuable Royals player of this century by Baseball-Reference’s WAR, with his 36.4 WAR ranking him seventh overall in Royals history, and as a Lincoln, Nebraska native who grew up rooting for the Royals and has been part of the organization for 15 years now, he’s a guy worth having around on a mostly young club even if he isn’t playing every day. The question now becomes whether he’ll be an everyday player with the Royals at this stage, because Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier — arguably the Royals’ two best hitters — are expected to hold down two of the three outfield spots more often than not. That means that Gordon’s presence as a starting outfielder would prevent younger players like Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling — and possibly prospects Nick Heath and Khalil Lee as the season progresses — from getting regular at-bats. And that doesn’t even account for DH Jorge Soler, who the team still wants to keep fresh by playing him in the field from time to time.
The Royals designated starter Heath Fillmyer for assignment in order to add Gordon back to the 40-man roster. Fillmyer showed encouraging signs by posting a 102 ERA+ over 82.1 innings as a rookie in 2018 before struggling mightily in both Triple-A and the majors last season.