So much time has been devoted to Eric Hosmer and where he might sign that we’ve kind of lost sight of Mike Moustakas. At the beginning of the offseason, it seemed like a slam dunk that he’d either end up with the Angels or Giants. Then, the Angels signed Zack Cozart and the Giants traded for Evan Longoria and those possibilities went out the window. For a 29-year old with knee problems and a career .305 on base percentage, coming off a season with a .314 OBP, the market seems to be closing down fast. Don’t forget that the 2016 National League home run champ had to settle for a late winter deal last year, so home runs aren’t as beloved on the market as they once were.
With Moustakas, it’s a little difficult to say what a team will be getting from him. On one hand, we know he’s a hitter willing to reinvent himself in order to get better results. He did that prior to the 2015 season and was a legitimately good hitter. Then he made adjustments to hit for more power; we saw how well that worked, too. The problem is that knee injury has made a player who wasn’t exactly brimming with athleticism, into a player who will need to be a DH sooner than later. After ranking as a positive player every year of his career outside of the tiny sample in 2016, Moustakas was worth -7.4 FRAA last season. The arm was still there, but his range was not. His UZR/150 was -3.6. It wasn’t just the metrics that disliked his defense. It was pretty clear he wasn’t what he once was.
So we don’t know if another year of recovery will help his defense, but Moose is likely seen as a limited player on the market. I thought there was a reason he would get significantly less than Hosmer, but I didn’t expect his limits to make his market what its become.
What are the options? Honestly, I’m not sure if any of them make that much sense. I guess if we’re trying to find a long-term deal, I only see five real options and I’m using the word “real” pretty loosely here.
If the Orioles follow through with moving Manny Machado to shortstop or if they follow through with simply moving Machado, they make a lot of sense. They’re in a perpetual state of refusing to rebuild and he would probably hit an awful lot of homers in Camden Yards. I think the max on a deal here is maybe four years with three more likely, but this is the one that probably makes the most sense to me. Even so, they’re earmarking their money for pitching, so I don’t think they’ll end up spending it on another slugger to add to their stable.
The Cardinals have been rumored to be after more offense even after acquiring Marcell Ozuna earlier in the offseason. They’ve been loosely connected with Hosmer with the idea of moving Matt Carpenter to second or third base. That means they’d likely be willing to replace Jedd Gyorko as a starter (and probably make him a super utility guy), but I don’t think that makes sense, not to make room for Moose anyway. Gyorko is a much better defender and has enough power that he can at least produce a nice chunk of what Moustakas could. It makes sense, but I think they’re too smart to do it.
The Phillies seem to be investing in some veterans with so little on the books moving forward, and if they’re completely done waiting on Maikel Franco, they could be a fit. Like the Orioles, Moose in that park could be fun for some big-time home run totals, and he’s one of those guys you would expect their crazy fan base to like, so I guess that has some legs if a few things work out to get him there, but I just don’t see it as all that likely.
The Mets make the most sense for him, but they went and spent $39 million over three years on Jay Bruce. They’ve been rumored to be a little tight on money and adding another left-handed bat may not be that appealing to them anymore. I think they made a mistake choosing Bruce over Moustakas given their outfield options already, but I guess that’s why they’re the Mets, right?
I’m going to save the other team that makes sense on a long-term deal for a minute. Yes, that’s right. Let the anticipation build.
Moose could sign a one-year deal, too. It would put him on the market with the crazy free agent class next year, including against Machado and Josh Donaldson, but a guy’s gotta eat. The Yankees make the most sense to me if he’s going to do that. They could use a left-handed bat to slot in with their right-handed monsters, and Moose could approach 50 home runs in that park. The Braves could also try to get him for one year as they wait for Austin Riley to get to the big leagues. That’s another park that would be very good for him to call home. And I could even see him staying in the AL Central if the Indians see an opening to get a third baseman for a year and shift Jose Ramirez to second where he finished 2017. There’s a small part of me that wonders if the White Sox could also be in play, but that’d be an odd scenario.
And that leaves the Royals. I said a little while ago in Friday Notes that a one-year deal doesn’t make much sense for him in Kansas City because you don’t want to sign that deal in a park that suppresses homers, but he has shown he can hit them, even with calling Kauffman Stadium home. But I do wonder if the market has come back to the point that the Royals are willing to give him something like three years and $42 million. If he’s not going to get a $50 million deal on the open market, I don’t actually have a problem with them bringing back the fan favorite. They’d only lose a pick right before the third round. It’s not that the pick wouldn’t have value, but the value isn’t really that much.
This is also a pretty unrealistic scenario, but on a three-year deal at a reasonable rate, I would have to think he could be traded. I hate the idea of advocating a signing just for the purpose of trading someone because it never seems to work out, but they’d have that in their back pocket. The reason I don’t think it’s that realistic is that I have a tough time seeing Dayton Moore pull the trigger on that sort of deal, especially as the next wave gets close. That is unless they have a third baseman on the way, which is certainly possible. Right now, they have options at third base, but Hunter Dozier and Cheslor Cuthbert shouldn’t stop a team from signing someone better. I like them both, but they don’t get in the way of a solid player.
Having said all this, I’m sure Moose will sign tomorrow with the Padres or something ridiculous because I didn’t mention them, but it’s become quite clear that his market is a pretty big mystery, and I wonder if he ends up being the guy the Royals keep in the fold just because the market lined up so perfectly (or imperfectly) to make it happen.