Gordon gets an early gift from Royals
Receives $4.775 million pact on eve of 28th birthday
KANSAS CITY -- Now Alex Gordon has something extra to celebrate Friday on his 28th birthday, a $4.775 million contract with the Royals for 2012.
"It was a great birthday present," he said.
Gordon and the Royals announced the agreement on Thursday, as he became the last of the club's seven arbitration-eligible players to come to terms. There was a little sweetener that could get the deal up to $4.8 million -- $25,000 if he reaches 700 plate appearances (he had 690 in 2011).
The two sides talked about a multi-year contract but didn't get there -- yet.
"We've had discussions and it's been kind of slow, as far as I've taken it," Gordon said. "I still have two years left with the Royals, and I'm hoping we can get something done before then. ... I know both sides want to get it done."
Royals general manager Dayton Moore acknowledged that.
"We're going to work very hard to get all of our good players signed long-term and, in Alex's case, obviously we have him under control for 2012 and 2013. And we'll continue to work toward something," Moore said.
Whether a multi-year deal will be discussed with Gordon's agent, Casey Close, in the near future or after the season, remains to be seen.
"We're always open to it, as long as it's not a distraction," Moore said.
With an arbitration hearing scheduled next Thursday, Gordon and the Royals agreed at the midpoint of their salary arbitration figures -- $5.45 million by the player, countered by the club's $4.15 million.
That was a big jump from last season's $1.4 million salary, but Gordon earned the increase with a breakthrough season that included a .303 average, 45 doubles, 23 home runs, 87 RBIs, 101 runs, 17 steals -- and an American League Gold Glove Award, highlighted by 20 assists in left field. It was his first full season as an outfielder, after a switch from third base.
Gordon not only stayed healthy for a change, but weathered a slow start in Spring Training -- kept in the lineup as manager Ned Yost patiently waited for the left-handed batter to fine-tune his timing and his swing.
"When I got off to a slow start in Spring Training, Ned showed a lot of confidence in me and he believed in me from day one. So it's very easy to play for a manager that shows that kind of respect and confidence for his players," Gordon said.
Twenty games into the regular season, he was hitting .361 and on his way.
"At the end of Spring Training, Alex had it locked in pretty good and just kept it going," Moore said. "We always felt that he had some potential to hit for some power, he's always had great on-base skills. And what he accomplished in left field, winning a Gold Glove, was certainly unexpected."
With Spring Training approaching, this is a time of year for optimism -- and Gordon doesn't lack that, based on the Royals' success developing youngsters last season and a strong finish.
"I think a lot of people are going to see what a lot of people are talking about with our young players," Gordon said. "They made an impact once they came up."
Contention in the AL Central is on his mind.
"We felt we could have done it last year, and we had the players and the talent," Gordon said. "And I think Dayton has done a great job of going out there this year and, maybe, filling some holes. We felt like that last year and we feel better this year -- having the same guys back, hopefully the same chemistry, and that we can pick up where we left off last year."
He's not overly concerned about the Prince Fielder-enhanced Detroit Tigers, either.
"They made a pretty big pickup, but we've got to focus on our team, ourselves and not worry about what other teams are doing," he said. "I think if we focus on what we're doing, we're going to be just fine."
Gordon is already working out at the Royals' camp at Surprise, Ariz., where the official opening of camp is still 10 days away. And he's not alone.
"I can speak for the position players. We have about 10 or 15 guys out here, right now -- and there are a lot of pitchers, too," he said.
The unofficial workouts are low-key.
"We're not getting after it too much, it's pretty laid-back. ... But there are a lot of guys out here, and it's good to see that," Gordon said. "Right now, we're just having fun and enjoying the time we have."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.