After four-time Gold Glover Alex Gordon announced on Wednesday that he has declined his player option and test free agency, San Francisco Giants insiders began their search for any indication whether or not the Giants will make a push for the 2015 World Series champion. On cue, just hours later San Francisco announced that they have declined the club options on both outfielders Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd.
According to an article by Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area, in regards to the left field vacancy GM Bobby Evans said that “the club will be active in seeking trades and scouring the international market.” And that, “The trade market may provide the best option in left field.”
With guys like Jon Jay and Josh Reddick possibly on the trading block, looking for a trade might not be a route to go. However, the one hole that the Giants cannot fall into is the Alex Gordon free agency hype. Here’s why:
1. Starting Pitching needs to be their priority
So what Gordon has won four Gold Gloves and made three All Star teams? When San Francisco won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, guess how many Gold Gloves the players won in those years. That’s right, a big donut hole: 0 Gold Gloves. Yes, defense wins championships, but so does pitching.
This past season, San Francisco starting pitchers ranked 18th in innings pitched, 11th in ERA, and 17th in strikeouts. If it wasn’t for Madison Bumgarner holding the pitching staff on his back all year, the numbers and results would have been a whole lot uglier.
The San Francisco front-office has already preached that starting pitching is their priority this off-season.
They need to stay true to this commitment because they have no choice. As well as being a mediocre pitching staff at best last season, Tim Hudson (retired), Ryan Vogelsong (free agent), Mike Leake (free agent), and Tim Lincecum (free agent) may all be gone. This leaves the rotation as so:
In 2010 when San Francisco won their first of three championships, the Giants pitching staff ranked 1st in ERA, 1st in strikeouts, and 1st in opposing batting average.
Kings of Kauffman
Gordon is a fantastic player who can provide a lot for a team, but he cannot pitch deep into a game–let alone pitch at all.
2. Signing a left fielder is not a need
Although it would be nice to have an All Star patrolling left field day in and day out for San Francisco, spending anywhere from $15-18 million per year is not necessary to receive production from a left fielder.
By no means are they on the same level, but Gregor Blanco (1.1 WAR) had just a slightly lower WAR compared to Gordon (2.8 WAR) last season. On top of that, Blanco played in 11 more games, had a higher batting average by .020 points, and scored 19 more runs.
Again, it would benefit San Francisco to add a staple of an outfielder and middle-of-the-order hitter, but Blanco playing left field every day is not such a bad option. Especially because Blanco is going to cost San Francisco just $3.9 million dollars next season, while Gordon will demand at least four times that amount.
3. Gordon is passed his prime and injury-prone
Gordon is set to turn 32-years-old in 2016 and will be playing in his 10th season in the big leagues. Because Gordon is such a hard-nosed, “all-out,” dive-for-everything type of outfielder, this admirable style of play unfortunately leads to numerous injuries.
In 2015, Gordon was forced to miss 58 games due to a severe groin strain after chasing a fly ball and crumpling at the warning track in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays in July. It’s these same plays like this:
that leaves players spending more time on the DL than actually on the field.
Another comparable outfielder as far as defensive style is Yasiel Puig, in that they both will lay out and sacrifice their body for an out each and every opportunity that presents itself. Since 2013, Puig has been forced to miss 97 games due to injuries.
Aug 27, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) makes a leaping catch on a fly ball hit by Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki (not pictured) in the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Gordon will be looking for his first large multi-year contract, and he will be demanding at least five years guaranteed. The former Nebraska Cornhusker has his best days behind him, and in five years he will be 36-years-old; well past his prime. Any contract offered greater than three years to Gordon will be regrettable because very few players who play that style can play at a high level for that long of time.
Gordon is an incredible outfielder than will have plenty more of incredible “Top Play” moments, however, these same moments is what will lead to more stints on the shelf and, essentially, an earlier retirement.