December 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm by Andrew Sisson under Atlanta Braves
This being my first post at CAC, I’d like to briefly introduce myself. My name is Andrew Sisson and I am a junior at High Point University where I’m currently studying business and finance. I previously wrote about the Braves at my personal blog, Brave Decisions. I’m honored to join CAC and look forward to contributing regularly. You can also find my thoughts on Twitter.
As the Winter Meetings are set to start Monday, the Braves can enter focused on adding their last big piece, a left fielder. Being able to lock up BJ Upton simplifies this process and gives the front office a plan with less moving parts.
A popular candidate is Royals left fielder, Alex Gordon. If you thought I was going to talk about Will Myers, sorry it’s not gonna happen. Only someone like Kris Medlen would be able to bring back Myers and I highly doubt the Braves intend on moving him. Anyways, it took awhile for Gordon to hit his stride as a player after he was drafted number two overall in 2005. He battled injuries and struggled to adjust in his first couple of major league seasons, but finally broke out with monster year in 2011.
Since the beginning of the off-season, I thought it would be wise for the Braves to tap into both of their available assets to fill the two outfield spots. The first asset, the large amount of freed up cash, has already been partially allocated towards Upton. With my estimates, I believe they still have around $14M to spend, which includes the projected $4M saved after the Tommy Hanson trade. Now, they should try to make use of the second major asset, their handful of talented pitching prospects, to acquire an outfielder on the trade market. Balancing these two areas out makes sure there is not depletion in one area and an excess amount of the other. Could the Braves go after another big free agent like Nick Swisher and fill their need, sure. It may be useful to save some of that money and make a trade if those players exceed the Braves spending limit. It also leaves money for in-house extensions. Lets remember, free agency is not really the preferred way to construct a team with budget constraints.
In 2012, Gordon posted a .294/.368/.455 triple slash, with a .357 wOBA and a 126 wRC+. He ripped 51 doubles, which was a step up from his 45 in 2011. During his career, he’s walked at a 10% clip, while striking out in around 21% of his plate appearances. His ability to get on base at a high rate would make him a great fit at the top of the Braves lineup. I could envision the top of the order looking something like Gordon/Prado/Heyward. I’m also fine with Prado leading off, but it would be beneficial to alternate L/R. No, he’s not your typical speedy/bunt for a hit leadoff hitter that will find a way first, then steal a base, but OBP is king at the top of the order no matter what form is comes in.
Michael Bourn may have been the classic prototype leadoff hitter, but in 2012 Gordon was just as effective, if not more, at getting on base and getting into scoring position. The two have different skill dependent ways of getting to bases, but in the end, they get to the same place roughly the same amount of time. If fact, played with some numbers that ultimately suggested that both Bourn and Gordon get to the same base almost the exact same amount of time. Bourn carries a risk/reward factor because he’s a stolen base threat, while Gordon uses power to rack up extra-base hits. To tie this back to my main point: if you were okay with Michael Bourn hitting leadoff in 2012, you should be just as okay with Gordon hitting leadoff in 2013.
Defensively, Gordon is among the best in the game. He’s been a two-time Gold Glove winner in 2011 & 2012. Those don’t necessarily carry a whole lot of weight, but the defensive metrics validate it. He was also Fielding Bible award winner in 2012, which heavily relies on defensive metrics and human evaluations. Among qualified left fielders the past three seasons, Gordon ranks only behind Martin Prado in UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games). DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) also loves him, ranking only behind Brett Gardner among all left fielders the past three seasons. Gordon being above average in left, would solidify the Braves to again have one of the best, if not best, defensive outfield in the league.
Gordon signed an extension with the Royals this past March that is guaranteed through 2015, with a $12.5M player option in 2016. Salaries start at $9M in 2013, and rise to $10M in 2014, and $12.5M in 2015. Player options are always a little scary; I’d much prefer a team option that keeps the contract in control of the people writing the checks. As for the money itself, it’s great team deal. Gordon has been a 5.9 and 6.9 win player (FanGraphs version) the past two seasons, so the next couple years on his contract would still remain team friendly. Even with a drop in what appears to be a high BABIP, Gordon could still be a very solid 4-5 win player over the next three seasons. The deal runs from his age 29 season, to his player option season at age 32. He may have already hit his peak as a player, but the contract still covers what should be some of his best seasons as a late bloomer.
It has been reported that the Royals are in fact listening to offers for Gordon and are looking for pitching. His asking price, as expected, is pretty high. I would assume a deal would be centered around Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado with additional top prospects. I’d much prefer to trade Delgado and keep Teheran.
Gordon would be a great fit for the Braves because he fits multiple needs all at the same time. Above average in the field and a high-OBP bat at the top of the lineup is exactly what the Braves need. Being left-handed is also beneficial. Even though it may seem like the Braves were just in desperate need of a right-handed bat, another lefty bat wouldn’t be a bad thing. With McCann out to start the season, Heyward and Freeman are the only two left-handed bats in the starting lineup. Even when he returns, it would still be a very balanced lineup (R: Prado, Upton, Uggla, Simmons… L: Gordon, Heyward, Freeman, McCann). I think Gordon could be a great fit for the team and covers all the needs they are looking for. He could be the final major piece to a Braves team that is set up as a strong contender for the foreseeable future. Alex Gordon is a player worth pursuing at the Winter Meetings, especially considering the track record of Royals front office. You never know what may happen.