Let's be clear: Mike Moustakas wants Alex Gordon back. But he's also rooting for Gordon this offseason, hoping he gets what he deserves: A fat, long contract that rewards him for his great career.
Fans see free agency as the time when their teams make or break their futures. For players, it has much more meaning.
"When you get to free agency, you deserve to be able to pick where you want to go," Moustakas says. "It's so hard to get to that point."
Gordon is currently fielding offers from teams, and reports are all over the board. The favorite to land his services has toggled between Kansas City and San Francisco and even in-state rival St. Louis. Whatever happens, Gordon is going to get paid, and the money will be life-changing.
In one respect, Gordon has already earned that life-changing money. His seven-year MLB career has brought in more than $41 million in salary alone. Devoted fans point to that financial stability as a reason why Gordon should stay home in K.C. and take a discounted rate to play for only MLB team he's never known.
But for a three-time All-Star and four-time Golden Glove winner who captained Kansas City to back-to-back AL pennants and a World Series in 2015, last year's $12.5 million salary is a bargain rate. Everyone knows that. At 31, Gordon is likely signing the last big contract of his career. He could make more than double in the next five years what he's made in his entire life to that point. Some projections have him valued at up to $80 or $100 million for a four- or five-year deal.
Those offers aren't coming from Kansas City. Facing an already limited salary budget and the pressure to retain flexibility for 2017, when core players include Moustakas will hit free agency, the Royals are reportedly low-balling Gordon. ESPN's Jim Bowden has reported that the Royals have only offered Gordon a four-year contract averaging $13 million a year.
If true, it almost certainly spells the end of Gordon's tenure in Kansas City. Not only could he command tens of millions more from another team, but the low initial offer suggests the Royals aren't particularly interested in chasing him. It's far too low to represent an attempt at compromise.
Gordon has been one of the greatest players in Kansas City history. But unless the front office raises its offer dramatically -- or if the market for Gordon's services suddenly dries up, which is highly unlikely -- he's about to move on to greener, richer pastures.
You can't fault anyone for leaping at the kind of cash Gordon is likely to be offered, especially when it's so far ahead of the figure Kansas City is willing to lay down. Moustakas understands: That's the business side of the game, plain and simple.
For now, it means Moustakas and other younger players will have to assume greater leadership on the team. General manager Dayton Moore will likely find a serviceable replacement, but they won't bring everything Gordon has to offer.
It's a big loss for the 2016 Royals to overcome. Moustakas feels the pain now, but he also knows those tough choices likely lie ahead for him -- and that, when the time comes, the decision will come down to what's best for him and his family, not the teammates he may leave behind.
Opportunity is a limited resource in professional sports. As a World Series champion, Moustakas has been fortunate to see new doors open for him outside of the game. Most recently, he's partnered with Stouffer's Fit Kitchen to promote their line of healthy prepared dinners, which he says he could have used during his days on the road playing minor-league ball.
He knows he's lucky to be in that position in the first place -- and that those kinds of opportunities won't be around forever. His teammate Gordon is in a similar situation, one with even greater implications.
And if Gordon does leave?
"He's our captain. He's our guy," Moustakas says. "I couldn't imagine him in any other uniform. But at the end of the day, he's going to do what's best for him and his family.
"We hope he comes back in left field, but we certainly understand the position he's in."
For every MLB player, it's a position to be envied.