KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With a cold wind blowing outside and the warmth of spring training still more than a month away, Alex Gordon walked into the home clubhouse of Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday and grinned.
He was home. And he will be for a while.
The All-Star outfielder signed a $72 million, four-year deal to remain with the Kansas City Royals, the long-downtrodden team that drafted him more than a decade ago, and that he helped climb to the pinnacle of the sport with a World Series triumph this past season.
"When I walked into the locker room, it put a smile on my face," Gordon said, "because at the end of the season, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do that again."
Gordon will make $12 million this season, $16 million next and $20 million each of the following two years. The deal includes a $23 million mutual option for 2020 with a $4 million buyout. If he is traded, the option would be voided and the $4 million would become an assignment bonus.
The deal is the richest in franchise history, trumping $55 million agreements given to longtime first baseman Mike Sweeney and starting pitcher Gil Meche.
"I mean, we all wanted to make it fair for both sides," Gordon said. "It was definitely a process but we got to that point and I’m happy with where I’m at now."
Gordon declined a $13.75 million option to test free agency, but several outfielders on the market — including Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton — may have depressed the 31-year-old’s value. And there is Gordon’s recent injury history that limited him to 104 games last season.
"He’s an easy player to root for," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "Alex is one of the greatest players and stories I’ve been around in the game, how he persevered and the changes he made and how he did it and how he led, and he didn’t complain. He just went to work and made himself an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner. … He is a pillar of our clubhouse and our organization, no doubt."
The second overall pick of the Royals in the 2005 amateur draft, Gordon went through years of growing pains before finally becoming a star. He not only developed into one of the best defensive outfielders in the game with four Gold Gloves, but also a consistent hitter and clubhouse leader.
Gordon dealt with a wrist injury early last season, then sustained a serious groin injury that sidelined him much for the summer. He wound up playing in just 104 games, hitting .271 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs, though he did get voted to his third consecutive All-Star Game.
Gordon returned in time for the playoffs, where he hit.241 while playing all 16 games. His home run off Mets closer Jeurys Familia sent the World Series opener to extra innings and allowed the Royals to win in 14 innings. The Royals went on to beat the Mets in five games
During the ensuing parade, hundreds of thousands of fans feted Gordon as the caravan wound through downtown Kansas City, confirming his status as one of the franchise’s most popular players.
"We’ve been here for 10 years and really established our home here," Gordon said, "so coming into the off-season, we were very appreciative of all the teams that showed us interest. But the end of the day, my heart has always been and I think always will be in Kansas City."
Notoriously frugal, the Royals once against showed their willingness to open their checkbook.
Along with bringing back Gordon, the team has re-signed pitcher Chris Young to an $11.5 million, two-year deal to solidify their rotation and brought back former closer Joakim Soria on a $25 million, three-year deal. They’ve also exercised an $8 million option on All-Star closer Wade Davis and a $5.25 million option on All-Star shortstop Alcides Escobar.
With a number of players likely to get significant raises in arbitration, including All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas, left hander Danny Duffy and outfielder Jarrod Dyson, the Royals could have another record payroll this season.
"We’re going to continue to work our roster, massage it in ways that are going to help us win," Moore said. "If you look at the evolution of the 2015 roster, we made adjustments along the way, and I’m confident we’re going to be able to do that to put the best lineup on the field."