Royals sign Alex Gordon to four-year, $37.5 million deal

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Update: The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton reports the first four seasons are worth $37.5 million: $6 million in 2012, $9 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014 and $12.5 million in 2015. The Royals are paying more than they likely needed to for the next two years (Gordon was already signed for $4.775 million for 2012), but they’ll make it back in his free agent seasons if Gordon remains one of the game’s top 20 or 30 outfielders.

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2011 was very much a make-or-break year for Alex Gordon in Kansas City. It’s safe to say he made it.

The Royals on Friday announced the signing of their former first-round pick to a four-year deal with a player option for 2016.

After struggling to establish himself for four years with the Royals, Gordon busted through to hit .303/.376/.502 with 23 homers, 87 RBI and 17 steals last season. The converted third baseman also won a Gold Glove for his play in left field (though that should have gone to Brett Gardner) and finished seventh among AL position players in WAR (the Baseball-Reference version).

No word yet on the terms of the deal, though $30 million-$32 million for the first four years seems like a reasonable guess. Gordon avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, signing a one-year, $4.775 million deal, but this pact replaces that one. He would have been eligible for free agency for the first time after the 2013 season.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.