Alex Gordon's deal: 4 years/$37.5 mil. 12: $6 mil, 13: $9 mil, 14: $10 mil, 15: $12.5 mil. Player option in 2016 is for $12.5 mil #Royals— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 30, 2012
Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft. He was a left-handed slugger drafted as a third baseman by the Royals. When you're a left-handed slugging third baseman who gets drafted by the Royals in the first round, you aren't going to get compared to Bill Mueller.
Gordon was supposed to hit and hit right away. The George Brett comparisons were as natural as they were unfair, and after a single season in the minors, he started 2007 in the majors. He was a little disappointing. After an encouraging sophomore season in 2008, he had two especially disappointing and injury-marred years. Everyone knew it was too early to start throwing the word "bust" around, but it wasn't looking especially encouraging.
Then, last season. Gordon hit .303/.376/.502 (140 OPS+) with 23 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He won a Gold Glove in his second season as an outfielder, and if Wins Above Replacement is your thing, he finished seventh in the American League according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. He was on track for free agency after the 2013 season.
At first glance, it might seem like this is a case of buying high, as this was Gordon's first great season. But this might remind you that Gordon was supposed to be this good all along:
Those are Gordon's career minor-league numbers. He was supposed to be a beast. He showed signs of that in the minors. Then he was hurt. Then he was a beast. That was good enough for the Royals, and there's probably near-unanimous joy in Kansas City right now. The Royals will probably never compete for guys like Prince Fielder, but at least they can keep some of the guys they already have.