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Report: Red Sox Will Be In On Alex Gordon If He Opts Out

Gordon

Just before the Royals took a 2-0 series lead against the Mets in the World Series on Wednesday night, a report surfaced that the Red Sox have emerged as a “crafty contender” for Royals’ left fielder, Alex Gordon.

But those executives who expressed Boston could play for Gordon offered a scenario in which the Red Sox find their starter on the trade market and use outfielders to get it. One scenario presented was that if Boston officials think Jackie Bradley Jr.’s strong finish inflated his value beyond his actual skill, this may be the best time to maximize dealing a young, defensive-star outfielder.

In the second half of the 2015 season, we saw the emergence of an exciting outfield that consisted of Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo. So if that outfield is so great, then why would the Red Sox want Alex Gordon? The answer, simply stated, is because Alex Gordon is better. Betts is in the handful of untouchables within the Red Sox organization, but Bradley and Castillo can be had, as the report mentions.

Gordon’s talents have just recently been getting recognized on a national level, thanks to playing on the big stage these past two Octobers. But the truth of the matter is that he has been one of the game’s best left fielders over the last half decade. And because of that fact, we know what Gordon is and likely will be. The same can’t really be said for Bradley and Castillo. Sure, it was an exciting second half, but after Bradley hit .354 with a 1.163 OPS in August, he followed that up by hitting .216 with a .739 OPS the rest of the way.

With Bradley in left, you’re getting great defense and, more often than not, you’re sacrificing offense. With Hanley Ramirez in left, you’re potentially getting great offense, but that comes with zero defense. Less than zero, actually. But with Gordon, you’re getting great defense and one of the most consistently productive outfield bats in the game. Since 2011, he’s hit .281 with an .809 OPS, averaging 35 doubles, 18 home runs and 72 RBIs per year.

Now, you’re probably thinking, why would the Red Sox focus on signing an outfielder when they have plenty, and should be spending money on pitching? Well, they can afford both. With the money that’s coming off the books from the 2015 payroll — assuming that they want to be in the same neighborhood of this year’s payroll again — they have about $40 million to spend this winter. That should be plenty to cover the cost of a player like Gordon, while also adding a frontline starter, especially if they’re adding one via trade.

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If you’re wondering what a player like Gordon might cost, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo had this nugget in his Sunday notes column this past weekend.

Assuming Gordon turns down his $13 million player option, he’ll be a free agent. There’s nobody who doesn’t love Gordon, but committing multiple years at more than he’s making — say $15 million — isn’t appealing. One of our GMs indicated that with Gordon entering his age-32 year, he wouldn’t give him more than three-year deal at $36 million-$38 million. The Royals may be able to retain him if they want.

It’d be fitting if the Red Sox paid tribute to the departed Ben Cherington by offering Gordon the old Cherington Special, 3 years, $39 million, which were the same deals that originally brought in Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino —  although I’m sure Gordon could fetch more. What the Red Sox will have going for them is that it’s a deep outfield free agent class this winter, with a few other names that will also draw interest, like Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Colby Rasmus.

But the bottomline is this: If you can use Bradley to get you pitching, then you use Bradley to get you pitching. And if there’s a vacancy in left field created because of that, Gordon is the best fit to fill that void here in Boston.