On Tuesday, the White Sox became as strongly linked to Alex Gordon as they are to Yoenis Cespedes.
That is to say, one national reporter has identified an unspecified level of interest:
Sources: #WhiteSox showing interest in Alex Gordon, among others. Gordon appeals for several reasons: Knows division, LHH, defense, makeup.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 22, 2015
And now that it's Wednesday -- the day of the week Rick Hahn does things this offseason -- I suppose we should half-expect this to culminate with a signing by midnight.
Gordon excites me the least of the troika of remaining free-agent outfielders, in that his age (32), value profile (heavily boosted by corner outfield defense) and 2015 (hampered by a groin pull) make it a little too easy to envision the White Sox arriving just as the party's ending, even if Herm Schneider can keep guys on the field. Listing "knows division" enthuses me even less, because it's not like that helped Mark Teahen any.
I'll willingly admit that "exciting" isn't exactly the most mature of evaluation approaches, though. The more important traits ("LHH, defense") are there, as are the OBP and extra-base hits, and a move away from Kauffman may help him hold the line with dingers as he ages. He's been the best player of the remaining outfielders, and one can construct a case in which he continues to be.
As usual, the question comes down to price, which looks lower than originally projected. Here's FanGraphs in November ...
A seven-year contract for Gordon does not make a lot of sense, but if the FanGraphs crowd is correct and Gordon receives a five-year contract for $90 million or even Dave Cameron’s four year, $92 million prediction, that represent be a decent value.
A five-year, $100 million contract — the price for Gordon that some predicted when the market opened — likely would be beyond the Royals’ comfort level. But even a lesser deal — say, four years, $76 million — might be a reach.
It's hard to tell just how hard the Royals are working for Gordon. They supposedly started by low-balling him, but that's not a bad approach if the market is slow on high-balling him. Over at Royals Review, Shaun Newkirk tried figuring out how Gordon fit into their finances and wasn't optimistic:
The Royals can afford Alex Gordon (depending on normal offers), but they don't have to sign him. Not spending all that money on Joakim Soria and Chris Young would have helped immensely. That is what leads me to believe they never planned on signing Alex Gordon all along.
But this paragraph from Rosenthal is also worth taking into account:
Gordon, who turns 32 in February, remains among the unemployed, but seemingly in a more secure position than most. Rival executives and agents say it all the time: "He can always go back to the Royals."
It's like somebody walked up and dumped out a burlap sack full of signals with no instruction manual. A straightforward market would have the Gordon negotiations resemble the ones for Ben Zobrist. Instead, it resembles a game of chicken, perhaps of the three-way variety.
The Royals could be playing poor with Gordon, waiting until somebody honestly forces their hand. Maybe it benefits the White Sox to make a show of doing due diligence on Gordon to make sure that the Royals can't get him as a "crawling back" price, especially if they're still a smaller-market operation despite the immense success with attendance and TV ratings. Maybe the Royals have no interest in committing to Gordon's decline, but Gordon's camp is content to use the Royals as a fallback in order to set a higher floor for himself. And if the Royals don't want Gordon back even at a depressed price, should the White Sox want him that badly in the first place?
Fortunately(?), the White Sox have simplified matters by making improvement at a corner spot oh so easy. Whether Gordon is the best buy, he'd be a dramatic upgrade, even if guys like Cespedes and Justin Upton come with more pyrotechnics.
In other news
*The Cardinals signed Mike Leake to a five-year, $80 million deal, which is the kind of inflation the Sox probably had in mind when they signed John Danks to a five-year, $65 million contract after a disappointing season.
Rumor at the beginning of the offseason was that Mark Buehrle would either retire or pitch for STL. Leake signing fills last rotation need.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 22, 2015
*The Mets signed Alejandro De Aza to a one-year, $5.75 million deal. It seems like it shouldn't be enough to take them out of the high-priced outfielder market, but the Wilpons' history says this is probably the case.