Take a step back in time with me. It’s January 6th, 2016. The Royals are fresh off back-to-back World Series appearances and, more importantly, still flying high after a Plaza Parade celebrating their first World Championship in 30 years. I don’t know about you, but that seems so far away now it’s hard to fathom. There, we will find the signing of one Alex Gordon to his current contract.
Reactions were pretty one-sided here at RR. In short, it was loved.
The deal, a 4-year, $72 million dollar pact, was widely praised. Overall, it seemed like the Royals got a good player at a below-market rate, but more importantly a home-town hero was staying. Euphoria was high, it felt like the Royals may be destined for glory with the band essentially back together for 2016.
But you know what they say. The best laid plans of mice and men...
Alex Gordon has been bad since this signing. Not just bad, but in some instances historically bad. In 2015, the contract year for Gordon, he posted 2.7 fWAR in 104 games. In the three years leading up to that, he was worth an average of 5.3 fWAR each season. Gordon was the premium defensive player in baseball, winning multiple Gold Gloves and the Platinum Glove in 2014 (award for best defensive player in the league), and carried a career .269/.348/.435 triple slash going into the contract.
The price for wins on the free agent market has varied year-to-year, but has largely stalled in the past handful of season. Because of that, we can pretty easily assign about $8 million per win as the “market value” over the duration of Gordon’s contract (it may have been slightly less for the first season or two, but these numbers aren’t an exact science at the best of times). With that in mind, the math is actually pretty simple. $72 million divided by $8 million is 9. Going into the 2016 season, Alex Gordon would need to post 9 wins over the course of the coming 4 seasons to “earn” the contract.
So, how has he done? (using fangraphs WAR)
2019: 1.1 (and counting)
Coming into this season, Gordon has posted 2.2 fWAR over the first three seasons combined. This is... bad. People consider an “average” major league player to be a 2-win player per season, and over 3 seasons Gordon has just barely managed to be worth over one “average” player season.