Here, finally, is some good news for the Royals — and their fans — after a series of injuries to key players. Left fielder Alex Gordon agreed Friday to a new four-year contract for a guaranteed $37.5 million.
“This is where I wanted to be,” he said. “I've told a lot of people that. We started talking a while ago, but our goal was to get it done before the season started. That's what happened.
”I'm sure both sides wanted to get it done earlier, but it's done now, and I think both sides are excited about it. I know I am.“
The agreement overrides a previous one-year deal. Gordon will now make $6 million this season instead of $4.775 million. His salary rises to $9 million in 2013, $10 million and 2014 and $12.5 million in 2015.
”Obviously, this is long anticipated,“ general manager Dayton Moore said. ”It's something that we had a strong desire to get done. There was a spirit to work together to make this happen.“
Gordon also holds a player option for 2016 at $12.5 million.
”It's a very special day,“ he said. ”I couldn't be more excited. Four years with a player option. I look at it as five years. This is where I want to be. I'm surrounded by great people.“
Gordon surrendered two seasons of free-agent eligibility in the deal, which many industry insiders suggest is club-friendly. Even Gordon admitted he was determined to come to an agreement.
”Dayton probably doesn't want to hear this (now),“ he said, ”but I would have signed (for the best offer) before the season started. In my mind, it was going to get done. This is where I wanted to be. I'm just thrilled that it's done.
“Now I can look to the future, and I'm liking what I see.”
Negotiations began last season but didn't come together until late Thursday night; in fact the contract is still contingent on Gordon passing a routine physical examination that is scheduled for today.
“I think we all felt (it would happen),” Moore said. “My heart was telling me that Alex wanted to be here. And I knew how dedicated we were to keep him here.
”When you have two sides committed to making something work, usually at the end of the day, you come to some type of agreement.“
The Gordon deal offered a welcome respite from a recent run of injuries that will force the Royals to open the season with five players on the disabled list, including closer Joakim Soria, catcher Salvy Perez and starting pitcher Felipe Paulino.
”It's been one of those springs,“ Moore acknowledged, ”but those are the things you have to deal with.“
Gordon is also the third player this spring to reach agreement with the club on a new long-term contract. Perez agreed Feb. 27 to a five-year deal for a guaranteed $7 million that includes three club option years that could boost its total value to $26.75 million.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar agreed March 15 to a four-year deal for a guaranteed $10.5 million with two club option years that could increase its value to $21.75 million.
”They're all important because the pieces have to fit together,“ Moore said. ”As I've said many times, we want to keep as many of our good players here as long as we can — knowing full well it's going to be a difficult challenge.
“We feel we have talented players and, as they get into arbitration and so forth, it's going to be tougher to manage the payroll. The way Alex worked with us and structured this deal helps us a great deal.”
Gordon, 28, was viewed as a franchise cornerstone immediately upon his selection as the second overall pick in the 2005 draft. He reached the majors in 2007, after just one season in the minors, but failed initially to live up to expectations.
Injuries derailed him in 2009 and 2010 and led to a demotion to the minors and, with Mike Moustakas on the horizon, a position change from third base to left field. Gordon hit bottom when he batted .215 in 2010 but vowed a breakout season in 2011.
Gordon turned that vow into a wow by batting .303 with 23 homers and 87 RBIs. He also set a club record with a major-league-leading 20 outfield assists on the way to winning a Gold Glove for defensive excellence.
“I've never met a baseball player who is as focused and as prepared every day as Alex is,” manager Ned Yost said. “It just helps you sleep easier knowing that Alex is going to be here and that the rest of these guys are going to be here.
”I don't ever have to get on them about playing the game right. They practice right. They play right. And Alex is at the core of that. That's a tremendous example for the rest of our young guys.“
Gordon fits right in.
”We're getting the right group of guys around,“ he said. ”You could see it last year with how our team came together. You knew some of these things were going to happen. We have all of these great young players.
“I feel like one of the old guys around the clubhouse. It's good to be part of this.”