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Detroit Tigers: Why Alex Gordon is Worth the Investment

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Despite some significant additions, the Detroit Tigers still have needs at a number of positions. One of those positions is in left field.

The team has already acquired an outfielder during the offseason in the form of Cameron Maybin and retains Tyler Collins from last year’s squad, but there is still a definite need in left.

Names like Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge Soler remain intriguing possibilities, but both would need to be acquired by trade. Any kind of deal would likely see Detroit losing some of the team’s best young players—something the club cannot afford to do. 

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Based on that, the easiest way to acquire talent is via free agency. The Tigers have already proved this with the Jordan Zimmermann signing, and could prove it again with a new corner outfielder. Obviously a left fielder is preferred, but the team could sign a right fielder and shift J.D. Martinez back to left.

While the Tigers are spoiled for choice with names like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and old friend Yoenis Cespedes on the market, all will likely demand bloated contracts that could look dreadful towards the end of the deal. For example, MLBTradeRumors.com predicts Upton will sign a seven-year, $147 million contract. Would you want the Tigers paying a 35-year-old Upton $21 million? Yep, didn’t think so.

One player is who is worth an investment is Alex Gordon.

The former Royals outfielder is an elite defender and has a knack for getting on base. Gordon has also averaged 18 home runs and 79 RBI since 2011.

In the same article that holds the Heyward prediction, MLBTR predicts a five year, $105 million contract for Gordon while CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman projects for a five-year $100 million pact.

Aug 29, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (51) makes a leaping catch of a Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (40) line drive during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, the player is 31-years-old and such a long and substantial contract would leave him being paid around $20 million as a 36-year-old, but his production is sustainable.

It may not be fair to compare the player to Ichiro Suzuki, but Gordon has posted extremely similar numbers to the future Hall of Famer in terms of each player’s age 27 to 31 seasons.

Here’s Gordon’s numbers

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And Ichiro’s

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— * Defensive runs saved above average was not tracked in 2001 or 2002.

In total, there cumulative numbers aren’t that far off during the span. Gordon averaged 18.8 defensive runs saved above average per season from his age 27 season to his age 31 season. Ichiro’s number was 17.3. The now-former Royal put up a combined 57 zone total fielding runs above average while the longtime Mariner checked in with 78. Additionally, Gordon’s dWAR was 7.4 while Ichiro’s was 3.5. In terms of OPS, Gordon posted an .809 OPS while Ichiro’s was .819.

Gordon is baseball’s best left fielder, and his numbers are right on par with one of the best defensive and hitting corner outfielders of the century.

Obviously Gordon and Ichiro are not the same human being, but it’s worth noting that the former Mariner’s defense held up, at least for the next five seasons. Ichiro’s numbers from 2006 to 2010 when he was 31 to 36-years-old: total 1.4 dWAR, 25 total defensive runs saved above average, 57 zone total fielding runs above average and a .792 OPS. Pretty good numbers.

In a way, the former Royals left fielder is financially to Upton and Heyward what Jordan Zimmermann was to David Price and Zack Greinke. The player is going to cost somewhere around $100 million, but he’ll still provide outstanding production at a much cheaper price than some of his free agent contemporaries.

What’s also appealing about signing Gordon is that the team would have an actual solid defense across the diamond. He would join an outfield that includes J.D. Martinez and the combination of Anthony Gose and Cameron Maybin. Martinez was third in baseball in terms of outfield assists while Gose and Maybin can cover miles in the outfield. In the infield, Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias are excellent defenders up the middle while Miguel Cabrera is a steady presence at first. Nick Castellanos is continually improving, and given the steps that he’s made, he could be a solid defender in time. This isn’t even mentioning James McCann who committed zero errors in 114 games as a rookie while throwing out 41% of runners attempting to steal. 

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Additionally, because the Tigers secured a protected first-round draft pick, the team won’t have to surrender their top draft pick to sign the former Kansas City Royal. Signing Gordon would only cost Detroit a third-round pick.

Also, it would be nice to steal him away from the Royals, right?

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