Alex Gordon Demoted

A week ago, the Brewers seemingly played the service time system to postpone J.J. Hardy’s free agency by a season. Today, the Royals are following suit with Alex Gordon.

Entering this year Gordon had exactly two years of service time. By taking him out of the equation for more than a few weeks, the Royals have pushed back his free agency eligibility by an entire season. Obviously this has been a poor season for Gordon. He’s hitting .198/.300/.313 and even worse since returning from the disabled list.

Certainly Gordon has given the Royals enough of a reason to demote him, but the timing is ultimately peculiar. Active for a month, did anything really chance within four weeks time that made the Royals think some time at Triple-A would help Gordon more than continuing play with the big league team? The only race involving the Royals is the race for Bryce Harper.

The problem with his game so far is his inability to drive the ball or make consistently solid contact. More than 50% of his batted balls are grounders, a figure well above his career average. If going down a level will somehow relax Gordon or alleviate pressure, then I guess it makes sense. Otherwise, it seems like a ploy to get another year of cost control; which is smart player management if not the most morally upstanding act.

Perhaps the more pressing matter is not Gordon’s 2009 status, but what the future holds for him. Playing draft retrospective is a bit silly, but the Royals chose him over Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Braun, two of the best players in the National League, meanwhile Gordon has yet to record a three-win season. Although he has been above average in both of his seasons to date, that’s probably not what the Royals expected when taking him second overall.

It’ll be interesting to see whether a team tries to take Gordon off KC’s hands this off-season, and if the Royals go through with it.

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51 Responses to “Alex Gordon Demoted”

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  1. Doug Melvin says:

    “the Brewers seemingly played the service time system to postpone J.J. Hardy’s free agency by a season.”

    Stop. Just stop.

    From last week’s comments:

    “Is Hardy still a league average player when he’s hitting like, I don’t know, Khalil Greene? Yes, he is. In fact, he’s a valuable player when doing so. But what he isn’t is a player performing to his full capabilities.

    The argument that he shouldn’t be sent down because he’s still better than most of the other players at his position is absurd. Say I have a 70? flat panel television in my living room. The colors are great, the black levels are deep, and the native resolution is 1920×1080. It’s just an awesome set. But one day, it stops displaying images in HD: 480p is the highest resolution the set will display. I’m still getting the colors and the black levels, but the clarity is significantly reduced. But, hey, I still have one of the five or six best television sets on my block, why should I bother calling a repair man?

    J.J. has had some bad luck this year. But his struggles aren’t wholly luck-based and sending him down so he can do the following…

    a) make use of the three day reporting period to get some rest that he has openly desired
    b) work on the issues that are currently holding him back

    …all while taking an, at worst, negligible hit to the performance of the Major League club?

    This is anything but service time manipulation.”

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  2. Adam says:

    As a Boston fan, I’d love to see both Gordon and Hardy in crimson hose next year.

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    • Gary Busey's Face says:

      Good for you! Any other players you want?

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      • Joe R says:

        Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp please and thanks.



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      • R M says:

        If they traded David Ortiz and Nick Green they could probably get Pujols. Green did really well as the fill in shortstop last year and Ortiz is too good at defense to be wasting away in the AL. Then they could get Kemp with Daniel Bard. That guy’s an ace! Then Mauer with Varitek and Michael Bowden….what do you guys think?

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  3. Matt says:

    The heck does LCD panels have to do with this?

    I have no problem with the service time demotions. It’s in the agreement. If the players don’t like it they should negotiate otherwise. This is a false dichotomy anyways, a player can be sent down for confidence and service time agreements.

    Seriously — LCD panels?

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  4. Jon says:

    I for one am extremely happy that the teams are finally brave enough to take full advantage of the rules that both they and the players agreed to. I have zero sympathy for the players.

    Bravo to the Brewers for setting the precedent with Hardy, and bravo to the Royals for demoting the struggling Gordon. I hope more teams follow suit.

    Then maybe we’ll see a revolt among young players, and they won’t stand for the Union’s rules which favor past-their-prime veterans so much it’s disgusting.

    Great things are happening in baseball. The teams have finally realized that 33 year old below average players are NOT worth $5-10 million a year. And now they are realizing that they can save money on the young players too by playing within the rules that the players set.

    I’m happy.

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  5. Ed Nelson says:

    Couldn’t Hardy just take a few days off while staying on the MLB roster, and then work on whatever it is that he’s working on during the MLB games? It’s not like KC or the Brewer’s have a snowballs chance at making the playoffs. Maybe the service time manipulation is just a very happy coincidence…

    There’s nothing in the rules against demoting young players to limit service time, however I doubt that it’s being overlooked by other prospective free agents that this is the way these clubs do things. If somehow the Brewers and Cardinals put forth offers to a guy like Holliday in the future (not that it would ever happen) that were close in value, guess where he’s going?

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    • Jon says:

      That is certainly a risk that the clubs are taking, not unlike the risk that a player takes when choosing Boras as his agent.

      For that reason we can only hope that these kinds of demotions become commonplace enough that they become the norm, and that players should come to expect them from any intelligently run team.

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  6. Ed Nelson says:

    Oh and Hardy wasn’t very happy about being sent down

    “But it still surprises me a little bit. I think three days off would have been all I needed, and I’ve been going out there every single day and doing what they’ve asked me to do.””

    Jimmy Rollins numbers were worse than Hardy’s but the Phillies stuck with him, not that they could send him down, but they gave him a week off and put him back out there. That shows a lot of trust and patience.

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  7. The Vaunted Christopher says:

    The only thing I learned was that Doug Melvin has a really, really nice TV.

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  8. PhD Brian says:

    I like what Doug Melvin said, and have no doubt he has a great TV! A player could in fact be under performing his abilities and still be outperforming most other players, and if a trip to the minors wakes him up, then its worth doing. This is plausible to me. The fact that it adds a year of eligibility could only be a bonus.

    Frankly Gorden is god awful this season, so I believe he was demoted because he sucks right now! I drafted him for my fantasy teams, but I cut him long ago. I watched a few Royals games recently and he looked terrible. Sure small sample and my eyes could be playing tricks, but still. He looked awful to me.

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  9. Bob says:

    “The problem with his game so far is his inability to drive the ball or make consistently solid contact.”

    In other words: he can’t hit worth a crap. Are you guys really going to post an article like this EVERY, SINGLE time a club sends a pre-arb eligible guy back down to the minors? I mean, we get it, the staff of Fangraphs thinks that the ML clubs have a ‘moral’ obligation to speed each and every one of their assets to arbitration and free agency as fast as possible. Anything less is a ‘travesty of ethics’ or ‘not the most morally upstanding act’. We get it.

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    • Nick says:

      Actually, the “problem” is, that Gordon is a young and still promising player coming off of back to back 2+ WAR season, and is getting benched for 1 bad month of play.

      So either Dayton Moore is amazingly stupid and a slave to small sample sizes, or he is intentionally playing service time shenanigans. You pick, either one is article worthy.

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      • robbbbbb says:

        “So either Dayton Moore is amazingly stupid and a slave to small sample sizes, or he is intentionally playing service time shenanigans. You pick, either one is article worthy.”

        This is a man who traded real prospects for Yuniesky Betancourt.

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    • Jason T says:

      OMG!!11 Someone must have held a gun to your head and forced you to not only read (!!) but also comment on this article too!.

      Hey, I’m sure there’s a site out there that writes up amazing baseball analysis but with a pro-owner ‘spin’. If there’s something I’ve learned about some of the readers on fangraphs the last few weeks is that they think, 1) Scott Boras is worse than Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao rolled into one, 2) players are GREEDY for ever trying to use the system to their advantage and daring to get as much as they can from owners who are just barely scrapping by, 3) the MLBPA is an evil organization (just like all unions!!! Papa Bear O’Reilly said so!) bent on destroying the perfect, infallible game of baseball and 4) organizations, on the other hand, should use whatever rule they can to their advantage regardless.

      I hope those of you who have commented recently supporting teams that should pretty much do whatever they want to a player (as long as it’s in the rules!! if the players don’t like, negotiate it out!) remember those feelings the next time you have a tough few weeks at work and your boss, even after several years of faithful and excellent work, decides to eliminate your health care and cut your pay. Remember, their just playing ‘within the rules’.

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      • Davidceisen says:

        My contract doesn’t allow my boss to cut my pay or drop my health care.

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      • Matt says:

        The bad analogies in this thread are laughable. This has nothing to do with hatred for unions or labor in general. Hell, I work for a labor organization and I vote as far left as I can every election.

        That said, the player’s union negotiated for a piece of a very big pie and this is one of the concessions they made to get the piece. The teams are playing by the rules agreed by both sides.

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      • MPC says:

        What a great comparison. Getting your pay cut and losing your health care is EXACTLY the same as being sent to the minors.

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      • Bob says:

        Wow, who said anything about Scott Boras? Not me.

        This is at least the fourth article this site has posted this year on the exact same topic. The point has already been stated whether readers agree with it or not. The moves these clubs have made are perfectly justifiable based on the 1) players’ play on the field and/or 2) the teams’ positions in pennant races. Not only that, but the moves are made within the parameters of the CBA that were negotiated by their union representatives and signed off on by the players. So now the teams are bound not only by the CBA but also by some nebulous morality standard dreamt up by Fangraphs or the fans?

        Alex Gordon and the other players, like me if my company does something they’re allowed to do but that I don’t like, have a couple of options: 1) find new employement (will never happen) or 2) organize a union (oh wait, they’ve already done that). Will we ever see the union file a grievance over this supposed service time manipulation? No, because they know they won’t have a leg to stand on based on how the players in question have performed to date and the rules are that have been laid out. Until then, trying to play high and mighty and feigning indignation over and over just make you look stupid.

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      • Joe R says:

        My company can’t drop my health care, so they wouldn’t be playing “by the rules” anyway.

        And if they cut my pay, I’d leave for another company. Fun how demand for labor works, that I don’t have to sit idly while my company pays me a sub-value salary for at-will employment (clear irony is that baseball players do, in fact, have to continue to work the same job for a very sub-prime salary many times. Or in this case, can be like Vernon Wells and have hundreds of millions coming my way for essentially AAAA level production).

        Just 20 years ago the average MLB salary was around $513K (about $890K in today dollars). Now, it’s $3.24M. Players are making almost 4x what they used to make just a generation before. Yes it’s not warm and fuzzy, but when you’re making 80x the national average, your performance is going to be picked apart. Even Alex Gordon at $406,000 is making a whole hell of a lot more than most everyone else.

        So yes, way to make a bad guy out of employers, because obviously their job isn’t to optimize their organization’s performance, it’s to cater to feelings and warm feelings, and unions are just looking out for the worker. This system worked great in Detroit auto manufacturing, I heard GM’s been doing great lately.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to give my Ronald Reagan Jobu-style shrine some rum to help me hit curveball.

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      • M.A. says:

        Is Joe R.’s employer aware of how much work time he spends surfing the internet. Someone isn’t optimizing their organization’s performance!

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  10. Davidceisen says:

    Did service time play some sort of role in this decision? Likely. But would Gordon of gotten demoted if he was hitting even .270/320/.400? Unlikely.

    I have no problem with teams ‘pushing back’ arbitration on players who are not playing well. Especially when those are promising. The Royals could keep playing Gordon, finish in last place, and in a couple years Gordon will have a breakout season–only for the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, or Phillies to give him 80 million dollars.

    Controlling when players reach arbitration is currently the only way that teams like the Royals will ever have a shot a competing. If young players are having bad years, I see no reason that teams shouldn’t demote them.

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  11. Gary Busey's Face says:

    “The only race involving the Royals is the race for Bryce Harper.”

    pardon me for asking, but what the motherf*ck does bryce harper have to do with the royals performance in 2009? bryce harper IS NOT draft eligible in 2010.

    good god. basic facts.

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  12. Ed Nelson says:

    The question at hand isn’t whether teams can or cannot send down players to control their arbitration time, they can. It isn’t whether that’s moral or not, it may not be but it’s certainly within the team’s power to do so. The question isn’t even whether it’s a motivation on the part of owners and teams, of course it is.

    The question is whether it’s a good idea to do it. I for one believe that for small market teams it looks really bad to other players that this is the way they run their organization, and farm system strength aside all teams are going to have to sign the occasional free agent eventually. Being on a limited budget is bad enough, but do the Brewers and Royals really need to propagate the idea that this is how they handle their players to make matters even worse?

    Player service time manipulation is a bad idea because in the end it may cause more harm than it does good for the overall health of an organization.

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    • Bob says:

      How exactly does this hurt the Royals or Brewers with regard to free agents? Free agents are by definition beyond their pre-arb years, so what would a prospective free agent care? They aren’t going to have their free agent clock delayed, they already are free agents.

      Does it matter to their fans and make them less likely to buy tickets? I doubt it. Do Brewers fans really miss JJ Hardy’s .667 OPS in the middle of the pennant race? Do Royals fans need any more reason to stay away from games that the team sending Gordon and his .613 OPS to the minors is the last straw that makes them buy less tickets? No. If anything, Alex Gordon and his free agent clock benefited from a poor decision by the Royals to start him in the majors from Day 1 in 2007, while Ryan Braun got two months more of AAA seasoning and has gone on to have a far superior career.

      Neither Alex Gordon nor JJ Hardy have a ‘right’ to be on a major league roster. They have to earn their spot every day and they have not gotten the job done this year. I can’t see a major league veteran thinking less of an organization for demoting a 25-year old, 3rd year player hitting .198 who still can’t ‘drive the ball’ or ‘make consistent contact’. Give me a break.

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  13. Joe R says:

    And this whole service time argument is kind of silly.
    Players get huge salaries now thanks to no spending cap. Crazy high salaries are a big reason why smaller market teams are struggling. These teams should take every cost advantage they can; if the player is good and deserves to be in the league, he’s going to get his money eventually. Even the unlucky Rocco Baldelli isn’t exactly struggling to put food on the table.

    For all we know, too, the extra year before Free Agency may earn a player more in the long run. An extra year to develop, or an extra year to verify talent levels.

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  14. Jeff P. says:

    I doubt Bryce Harper played a part in this decision. I mean if Moore was thinking of securing the #1 pick wouldnt it have made more sense to not only keep the guy batting .198 but also play him everyday?

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  15. Tom says:

    First time poster, fan of the site. I must say that the morality issue was a bad angle to take on this topic. We’re in a recession were companies have laid off millions of workers and I haven’t heard anyone say that those companies have a moral obligation to keep those employees on the job. All the Royals and the Brewers have done is possibly delay a promotion(to arbitration and or free agency) for an underperforming employee. That hardly seems to be an immoral act in the grand scheme of things

    So I guess the real question is what if any damage does this possibly do to either organization. I suppose it makes is less likely that Hardy or Gordan will resign with their current teams, although the Brewers already appear to have Hardy’s replacement in Escobar. If there is any other long term damage I can’t see it, but I could be missing it.

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    • jimbo says:

      Well put Tom.

      It might make those players less likely to stick with their current club. Might even make other players less interested in going there (if there even is a lower setting on that dial).

      Doesn’t it also communicate that you need to produce to get your payday? What if they did let these guys get their playing time (and pay raise) while underperforming? All the other youngsters can just coast along and expect the same.

      We’re losing perspective on PERSONAL responsibility imo. Look at the other side, where the Tigers let an expensive contract vest with Ordonez because why? He was doing a job well.

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  18. Garry Kail says:

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