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.