KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals declined his player option for next season Wednesday and will test free agency for the first time, though he could still return to the World Series champions.
The four-time Gold Glove winner has spent his entire nine-year career with the Royals, who drafted him second overall in 2005. But it has been only in the past few years that he has truly flourished, driving up his value while helping Kansas City to this year's title.
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Gordon's option rose to $13.75 million after he achieved a series of escalators. He will be 32 in February, which means this may be his last opportunity to sign a lucrative long-term deal, though both sides have expressed interest in Gordon remaining in Kansas City.
Gordon hit .271 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs in 104 games during the regular season.
His decision was the most significant to come down Wednesday as the Royals, just 24 hours after celebrating their championship with a downtown parade, began turning their attention to 2016.
Earlier in the day, the Royals declined mutual options on right fielder Alex Rios and starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. They still had not announced whether they had exercised club options on All-Star reliever Wade Davis, All-Star shortstop Alcides Escobar or outfielder Jonny Gomes.
General manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost were due to speak to reporters Thursday.
"Our farm system is very, very strong," Hall of Famer George Brett, now a special assistant in the front office, said earlier Wednesday. "Who knows? If Gordon decides to leave or Rios is no longer on the team, we've got a couple of guys in Triple A that hit over .300 with 20-something home runs and 100-something RBIs. OK, so maybe we give these guys a shot. They're built for the long haul."
The 34-year-old Rios had a $12.5 million option with a $1.5 million buyout, while the 36-year-old Guthrie had a $10 million option with a $3.2 million buyout.
Both moves had been expected. Rios struggled much of the season, slowed by a broken hand and the chickenpox, and hit .255 with four homers and 32 RBIs before contributing a few key hits during the World Series. Guthrie was left off the postseason roster after going 8-8 with a 5.95 ERA and losing his spot in the rotation late in the regular season.
Davis and Escobar are near-locks to return to Kansas City.
The hard-throwing Davis, who has an $8 million option, took over as the closer when Greg Holland required Tommy John surgery. He wound up saving four games in the postseason, and recorded the final out in the 12th inning of Game 5 against the New York Mets in the World Series.
Holland's injury means that Davis is expected to close games next season.
Escobar has a $5.25 million option, a relative bargain considering the first-time All-Star was MVP of the AL Championship Series. Escobar hit just .257 with three homers and 47 RBIs, but was a sparkplug at the top of the lineup and is a Gold Glove finalist.
The winners of those defensive awards will be announced next week.
Gomes was picked up late in the season from Atlanta but did not play in the postseason. His club option is only $3 million, but he turns 35 later this month and does not offer the same kind of versatility that the Royals value in their everyday players.