The Cubs were reported to be interested in Alex Gordon fairly early in the off-season much to the puzzlement of the team’s fans. With Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant expected to receive a fair amount of at-bats in the outfield corners, an addition like Gordon seems to lead to a log jam. Let’s take a look at what about Gordon has the front office intrigued, how much he’ll cost and the impact he could have.
With names like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes on the outfield market, Alex Gordon seems to get lost in the conversation at times. The lefty batter should still be considered as he owns quality numbers with a career .269/.348/.435 line. Despite nine years in the league, you really have to look at his past five years, to really get a picture of the kind of player he is. In those five years, he’s batted .281 vs .244 in his first four, hit 89 of his 134 homeruns in those last five and been voted to the All-Star team each of the last three years.
While the offensive numbers are definitely solid, Gordon’s real value comes in his defense. As a left fielder, he owns a 12.7 UZR/150 rating which ranks as just below Gold Glove territory. It would vastly improve the outfield defense that Theo Epstein mentioned as a priority in his end of the season press conference.
Gordon could also be a nice replacement in the leadoff position, an area needed thanks to the likely departure of center fielder Dexter Fowler who rejected a qualifying offer. In 311 games in the leadoff spot, Gordon has a .280/.354/.454 line and carries pretty even platoon splits with .275 versus right handers and .255 versus same handed pitchers.
A leadoff hitter that plays great defense, gets on base, has power and a little speed is something a lot of teams need so Gordon will likely sign for the rumored five-year, $100 million contract he is seeking despite costing a first round pick. The danger of that kind of deal is the fact Gordon will be 32 and it will not conclude to his 37 year old season. Gordon spent over a month on the disabled list this season with a groin strain and his 104 games, where his lowest total since 2010. His speed also totally disappeared this year with just two stolen bases, one before the injury and one after.
A 32-year old Jayson Werth signed a similar risky free agent deal with the Nationals back in 2011 for seven years, $127 million. Werth has a little more power than Gordon and not as good of a defensive player, but he’s a versatile outfielder with a similar skillset and ability to leadoff. Starting in the second year of the deal, Werth has had trouble staying healthy suffering a variety of injuries that have kept him off the field for long chunks of time. Prior to his first season of injuries, Werth had three straight seasons of playing 150 games or more. Gordon had four full seasons before this year’s injury, so the threat of him breaking down quickly is very real.
While Gordon would check a few boxes off the front office’s wish list of improving outfield defense, a hitter who gets on base and works counts and a new leadoff hitter, the risk may outweigh the reward. It’s seems like too much of a gamble to sign a 32-year old outfielder to a long term contract when you aren’t sure if he hasn’t already started declining and you have younger options who haven’t even reached their ceiling yet.
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