On his first day as a Kansas City Royal, Josh Willingham leaned back in a clubhouse chair and took in his surroundings. Across the room, a group of reporters ringed a corner locker. Willingham turned to new teammate Danny Duffy and asked about the status of the locker’s inhabitant.

“So Alex Gordon,” Willingham said to Duffy, “he’s like the face of the franchise?”

Duffy nodded. By now, the secret is out. Sports Illustrated profiled Gordon last week. He earned his second All-Star selection last month. He has barged into the conversation for American League MVP. His fourth Gold Glove appears assured. He is the mild-mannered leader of a first-place club and general manager Dayton Moore’s organizational paragon.

Gordon, 30, may also become the litmus test for the organization’s spending capability. His emergence on the national stage coincides with an upcoming opportunity to be compensated as a cornerstone.