I wrote that I did not understand the Royals’ perspective on the Juan Cruz release. Afterward, I found myself reading a few threads on Royals Review to attempt and gain that point of view. One of the comments suggested Carlos Rosa was not long for the organization since the team chose to promote also-rans like Bruce Chen and Brad Thompson over the promising arm. What was then amusing is now prophetic. Marc Hulet will have more on that move tomorrow, but the Royals didn’t stop tinkering with their young players there. Oh no, yesterday they decided to demote Alex Gordon to the minors.
On one hand, I’d like to praise the Royals for the move. Gordon had not started in three days despite the Royals facing two righties in that span. On Saturday night, he entered the game as a pinch runner for Billy Butler. I could not believe the move then and I still cannot. Suspend the curiosity as to whom the Royals were playing in his place and focus on the idea that the Royals had designated their 26-year-old third baseman with a career .328 wOBA to pinch running duties.
Rather than burning Gordon’s service and developmental time on the bench in favor of such wunderkinds as Alberto Callaspo and Chris Getz, the Royals decided Gordon would be best suited to get consistent playing time in the minors. That is logical. It’s even defensible if they really think Gordon is not their best option at third base (and completely ignore long-term gains) or if Gordon is suffering from an undisclosed ailment.
There’s no way of knowing the latter, but how about the former?
The Royals’ non-first base infield will now consist of Callaspo, Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Aviles, and occasionally Willie Bloomquist. To his credit, Callaspo has hit the ball insanely well this season, entering Sunday’s contest batting .301/.347/.505 with a 0.88 BB/K ratio to boot. The same cannot be said for Gordon, who possesses a .299 wOBA with a .227 BABIP. That ranks him in the lower half of the Roayals’ lineup, but therein lays an issue: Gordon has hit well relative to the other infielders Betancourt (.298), Getz (.222), and Bloomquist (.193).
Betancourt is the Royals’ starter at shortstop, which excuses his weak efforts. Aviles is freshly back and can also play shortstop. That leaves Getz and, to a lesser degree, Bloomquist as the main opponents to Gordon’s roster spot. Getz is also 26 years old and a fringe starter with nice contact skills and some versatility. He’s absolutely a potentially useful bench player, but he’s not worth jettisoning Alex Gordon over and particularly not when Getz has an option remaining, too.
If it came down to a false dichotomy where it was Gordon or Getz, then 1) the Royals value some players on their roster far too much and 2) they made the wrong choice. Gordon may not be Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, or George Brett, but those players should not be the baseline comparison for Gordon. He’s produced 5 WAR in roughly 1,400 plate appearances. Butler has produced 3.4 WAR in 1,600 plate appearances. For some reason Butler is treated well while Gordon is the victim of a roster crunch.
Gordon has earned a spot on the Royals’ 25-man roster, but you know what, the Royals may not deserve him.