With catcher Salvador Perez in recovery mode following Tommy John surgery, the Kansas City Royals only have one significant tie to their 2015 World Series team on their 2019 roster: Alex Gordon. The veteran outfielder signed a four-year, $72 million contract after that World Series title, and it hasn't worked out as hoped. Not at all.
From 2016-18, Gordon authored a .225/.310/.355 batting line in over 1,600 plate appearances. That's after hitting .281/.359/.450 in nearly 3,200 plate appearances from 2011-15. A small market team like the Royals can't afford to miss on $72 million contracts. Gordon's decline is not the reason Kansas City has slipped into another rebuild, but it is a reason.
This season though, the 35-year-old Gordon looks much more like the 2011-15 version of himself than the 2016-18 version. He swatted a game-tying three-run home run against Yankees relief ace Adam Ottavino on Sunday, then, Monday night, Gordon went deep again, this time against Rays righty Yonny Chirinos (GameTracker).
Monday's home run was Gordon's fifth of the season already. He hit 13 last year and nine the year before. Gordon went into Monday night's game with a stellar .316/.398/.582 batting line. In fact, his early season hot streak extends back into last season -- Gordon hit .273/.343/.445 in his final 33 games in 2018.
Last year's big finish and this year's hot start may not be small sample size noise. There is a tangible reason to buy into the new and improved Alex Gordon. Last August he told Rustin Dodd of The Athletic that he changed his mechanics at the plate. Specifically, he now stands more upright:
The feeling, Gordon says, stems from a simple mechanical adjustment last August. He changed his posture at the plate. He focused on his approach. He leaned on the Royals' committee of hitting gurus, including hitting coach Terry Bradshaw and coaches Pedro Grifol and Dale Sveum, each of whom has held the title of Royals hitting coach.
"It was getting my posture back, staying straight up," Gordon said. "It has allowed me to be more athletic in the box and use my hands a lot better. I don't know how I got to it, but I started hunching over. That's just not a good place to be, and I just couldn't get out of it."
Go give that homer video above another watch. See how upright Gordon is? He's spent much of his career hunched over at the plate, and hey, it worked for him for a long time. It stopped working as his skills started to decline with age, so an adjustment was necessary, and now he is reaping the rewards from that adjustment.
Of course, it is still April, and April is full of lies. We're still waiting for all the statistical weirdness to correct -- two qualified hitters are still batting over .400, for example (Cody Bellinger and Tim Anderson) -- and, when it does, Gordon's numbers may look more like 2016-18 Gordon than 2011-15 Gordon. The fact there is a mechanical adjustment involved here suggests there is a chance the new Alex Gordon is here to stay.
This is the final season on that four-year, $72 million contract, and Gordon told Dodd he is considering retiring after the season. He has full no-trade protection as a 10-and-5 player (10 years in MLB, including the last five with the same team), so he controls his own destiny. That said, if Gordon keeps this up, you can be sure contenders will come calling at the trade deadline.