Royals remain hopeful as Gordon hits market

Fan favorite will explore free agency, but club will try to keep him

Royals remain hopeful as Gordon hits market

KANSAS CITY -- He is the indisputable Face of the Franchise, the longest-tenured Royal and a fan favorite, hailing from nearby Lincoln, Neb., and having just led Kansas City to its first World Series title in 30 years.

But after nine seasons with the Royals, Alex Gordon, 31, is also a free agent.

The Royals, without a doubt, want him to stay. So, too, do the fans. Desperately, in fact. And there is reason to believe he wants to return.

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"There's no doubt in any of our minds that we want Alex, and Alex wants to be here," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "Alex has done everything for us each and every day, and we've given him everything we possibly could."

But a happy ending is not always how these things work out, especially in budget-conscious markets like Kansas City. If it comes to that, it won't change how the organization views Alex Gordon, the player, or the man.

"No matter what, Alex will always be a Royal in our eyes," Royals owner David Glass told MLB.com. "He is everything you want in a ballplayer. But we have not sat down and taken a look at the numbers yet. That time will come. In the end, Alex needs to do what is best for him and Dayton needs to do what is best for the Kansas City Royals.

"We want what is best for Alex. If another team offers him a big contract that is out of our range, then he needs to do what is best for himself and his family. But he is a special person and player."

But it is not yet a foregone conclusion that he will sign elewhere -- far from it. The Royals have the advantage of familiarity. Gordon loves playing in Kansas City, and he loves being just a three-hour drive from his home in Lincoln.

The Royals might even get a hometown discount from Gordon, who is very close to Moore as far as player/general manager relationships go. Last winter Gordon wrote the foreword for Moore's book, "More Than A Season: Building A Championship Culture."

But Moore suggested his personal relationship with Gordon would not enter into negotiations.

"I never take advantage of a personal relationship," Moore said. "Business is business. It's about the Kansas City Royals.

"Alex is family. I want Alex to have all 30 teams interested in him. That's what I want for him. And then he'll have an opportunity to make a very informed decision, what's best for Jamie [his wife] and the boys [Max and Sam].

"We are going to be as fair as we can, and hopefully it's good enough. It's the first time in my career that I've had this situation presented."

Not all 30 clubs will be interested, or in position to bid on his services, but plenty will. For now, the process must unfold. The first step was Gordon turning down his player option for $13.75 million; which was expected. Then, the Royals extended a qualifying offer of $15.8 million to Gordon. He has until 4 p.m. CT on Friday to accept or decline the offer.

He almost assuredly will decline it, although he and his agent have remained silent on the matter this week. What will ensue is an opportunity for Gordon to gauge his worth on the open market, and for the Royals to find out if they can stay in contention for his services.

Over the past five seasons, Gordon has an average OPS of .809 with 18 homers and 72 RBIs, to go along with four Gold Gloves (and perhaps a fifth coming next week) and three All-Star selections. He has postseason experience and has delivered at crunch time, most notably his solo shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 of the World Series, sending that game to extra innings, where the Royals would ultimately prevail, 5-4, in the 14th.

Statcast: Gordon's clutch homer

Which clubs might be interested in Gordon?

Angels: Eight players started in left field for the Angels in 2015, which suggests they are drawing straws at that position and would like to solidify it. The Angels also have deep pockets.

Astros: Colby Rasmus was their left fielder this season, but he, too, is a free agent. If he isn't brought back, Gordon could come into play. Gordon's 2015 on-base percentage (.377) would no doubt be attractive to a team that finished a middling eighth in the AL in OBP (.315).

Red Sox: If the Red Sox deal Jackie Bradley Jr. or Rusney Castillo for needed pitching, Gordon could be a target.

Cardinals: Royals fans would despise this, but if free agent Jason Heyward lands elsewhere ... just sayin'. Gordon's their kind of player, right?

Giants: They've already declined options on Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd. Gordon would be a nice fit.

Orioles: They have not replaced Nelson Cruz or Nick Markakis from 2014, and might lose slugger Chris Davis this offseason. Gordon has a career .848 OPS at Camden Yards.

Cubs: Gordon is Joe Maddon's type of player -- high on-base guy who plays smart and hard. Perhaps a reach with all their young talent, but left field was a revolving door in 2015 and if they're not convinced slugger Kyle Schwarber is the answer in left field, perhaps Gordon is.

Royals: Don't count them out just yet. The Royals had a huge attendance spike and another deep run into the playoffs, meaning there could be available revenue, though there are other needs, as well, on the roster.

Soon enough, Gordon's market will emerge and the Royals, by then, will know how far they can go to keep him. As painful as it might be to lose Gordon, such decisions are part of small-market baseball.

"You look at last year," Glass said. "We didn't want to lose Billy [Butler] or James [Shields], but that happens in this game. Sometimes change is good. The main thing is you keep your core group of players together for as long as you can, and you fill in the blanks with the other positions the best you can. That's how Dayton has done such a tremendous job."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.