Brandon Moss

Royals Gather Moss

According to pretty much any source worth anything, the Royals have agreed to terms on a two-year deal with free agent Brandon Moss. The deal is said be worth $12 million and is backloaded, which is to be expected given the Royals budget concerns for the upcoming season. He will reportedly earn $3.75 million in 2017, $7.25 million in 2018 and a $1 million buyout on his 2019 option. Without details from the team, I think it’s safe to assume that Moss will spend plenty of time as the designated hitter while also helping out in the corner outfield spots and occasionally at first base.

Moss, a left-handed hitter, isn’t the typical Royals offensive player. He can work a walk (8.4 percent last year; 9.3 percent in his career), he has impressive power and he hits the ball hard. He does strike out a lot (30.4 percent last year; 26.9 percent in his career), so his batting average ends up leaving something to be desired, which is why he’s hit .229 over the last three years, but he’s done so with an OBP of above .300 and an ISO of over .200.

Moss spent last season with the Cardinals, hitting .225/.300/.484 with 28 home runs. He spent time at first base, left field and right field. He has played four innings of third base in his career too, so he’s proven he’s capable of standing there for an inning or so at a time. He was worth 1.6 WARP last season, up from a miserable 0.1 in 2015. From 2012-2014, though, he was worth 8.4 WARP, so if the Royals could potentially unlock that from him, they’d have found themselves a major bargain given the cost of some of the other free agent sluggers on the market.

I’m not sure if the Royals will look to feature him against righties exclusively, but they probably should. Last year, he hit .223/.303/.525 with 25 homers against righties and just .232/.289/.375 with three homers against lefties. The splits aren’t as dramatic in his overall career, but they’re still there.

One thing that surprised me is that Moss has rated decently enough in the outfield. Given the defensive limitation of Jorge Soler, I’m curious to see how often Soler is the one written in the lineup as DH and Moss as an outfielder. Yet he hasn’t rated well at first base, which should be easier, but baseball is a funny game, I guess.

I like this signing enough. As I wrote in Friday Notes, I preferred Logan Morrison because he makes more contact and theoretically has more upside than Moss given his age, but the difference between the two isn’t really vast enough for me to get worked up either way about it. I think Moss helps to lengthen the lineup against righties while providing an opportunity for some roster versatility that the Royals do value.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this deal is that it creates some roster questions. I think we have a good idea of who the locks are, but this puts into question a couple player’s standing on the team. I think Billy Burns is now likely ticketed to start the season in Triple-A, barring an injury. He has an option remaining, and I assume the Royals will use it. Given that Paulo Orlando can handle center field and Whit Merrifield can also handle the outfield, there’s no real need for Burns. When you add in that Moss can play in the corners as well, Burns is basically the definition of superfluous.

The other question is with Cheslor Cuthbert. I imagine Cuthbert is safe for now as the team looks to see how Mike Moustakas returns from his knee injury, but he was also ticketed for regular DH at bats and now likely isn’t. He did hit .320/.352/.467 with three home runs against lefties last year, so if the Royals choose to platoon the DH spot between Moss and Cuthbert, they could find some pretty great production. I still think Cuthbert fits on this roster best as a trade chip with a team like the Giants or Mets where they can maybe get back a starter they can slot in the rotation immediately.

Those questions will be answered in the coming days, but this particular signing ends the rotating DH idea the Royals have said they wanted for years and have actively avoided by picking up free agents to fill that role. I believe they’re right to avoid it, and adding Moss probably completes the offensive changes this team has made. I believe they potentially added about 15-20 home runs to their lineup by adding Soler, Moustakas and Moss (70 homers from the three isn’t out of the question) at the expense of Orlando/Dyson, Cuthbert and Morales, who combined for 48 (or 55 if you add Moose’s seven). It’s clear the Royals are valuing the long ball in a way they hadn’t necessarily before, and hopefully it can help them to boost that offense in 2017.

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4 comments on “Royals Gather Moss”

Scott McKinney

I have no idea where this idea of Cuthbert’s significant trade value comes from. Could he bring back one of the many (pretty worthless) borderline #5 starting pitchers in baseball? Perhaps, because those guys are a dime a dozen. But that doesn’t sound like a “starter they can slot into the rotation immediately.” Such a pitcher would be SP depth at best. Cuthbert isn’t very good. The scouting reports haven’t been great for him for years. The results have been meh. His defense is poor, which limits his utility. The Royals can get something for him, but not a lot.

Big Lee

I agree with Scott. Sometimes Royals fans (and all fans I suppose) over-value their own guys. There is nothing wrong with keeping Cuthbert, but let’s pump the breaks on the value trade chip talk.

David Lesky

The Royals current fifth starter is likely Chris Young. I never said he had “significant trade value” but I do believe a team could give up a back of the rotation pitcher for him who would slot in immediately and be better than Young. It wouldn’t be the direction I’d go because that pitcher would likely not be better than a couple of the free agent candidates out there, but it’s certainly an option.


Personally I’d rather see Cuthbert platooning with Moss, and filling in at 3B and 1B occasionally. I think we need to keep him for now in case we can’t keep either Hosmer or Moose.

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