Mike Moustakas was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday for outfielder Brett Phillips and pitcher Jorge Lopez. A trade away from the 2015 World Series winners seemed inevitable when Moustakas resigned in the offseason, and Milwaukee were an obvious potential trade partner given their infield struggles.
Lopez has appeared in 10 major league games this season, and was the 59th prospect in baseball ahead of 2016 season according to Baseball America. Phillips had an on-base percentage over .350 in 37 major league games last season, but has predominantly been in the minors this year after the Brewers traded for Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain. The outfielder was as high as 32 on Jonathan Mayo’s pre-2016 MLB prospects list, but his slip down the Milwaukee depth chart turned him into no more than a trade chip.
Royals get decent haul
The Royals – who could have one of the worst seasons ever – have got a good haul here. Phillips and Lopez are undoubtedly talented, the bigger question is whether Kansas City should have tried to bring a larger group of younger prospects given how far they are from genuine contention. It’s hard to turn down two major league ready pieces, mind.
Milwaukee were expected to add a middle infielder this month (Moustakas isn’t going to be at shortstop, don’t worry). Travis Shaw, who is having a great year, will vacate third for Moustakas and fill in at second base. Jonathan Villar and Orlando Arcia have struggled at the plate all year and Villar is currently on the disabled list with a thumb injury. Replacing Villar/Arcia with Moustakas changes the entire look of the Brewer order.
Arcia, who has appeared in 67 games, has a measly .471 OPS. For comparison, Moustakas boasts an OPS over .770 with 20 homers. Milwaukee will lose out defensively with this move, but the upgrade to the line-up is probably worth it.
Villar will likely play shortstop when he returns from injury. His numbers are prettier than Arcia’s, slashing .261/.315/.377 with 14 stolen bases. Carrying one glove-first middle infielder is doable even in 2018, particularly when surrounded by the power bats of Moustakas, Shaw and Jesus Aguilar.
Given the availability of Brian Dozier and Jonathan Schoop, this trade is surprising. Milwaukee have improved their offence, but moving Shaw to a position he’s never played before seems a disproportionate risk. This was no bargain for the Brewers, even if Phillips was surplus to requirements. Dozier or Schoop could provide similar power to Moustakas while keeping players in their most natural positions.
Sure, none of those numbers are fantastic, and we can only speculate about a potential price for Schoop or Dozier, but is Moustakas really worth moving Shaw for? This is the deal a team makes if there are no other options to bolster infield offensive production. That’s simply not the case. There are probably others too, but we know that Baltimore and Minnesota will listen to offers having flipped Manny Machado and Eduardo Escobar respectively.
Moustakas may hit a few homers and help the Brewers return to the playoffs. He might have a monstrous final couple of months at Miller Park and finish with 35 homers. Right now, though, this trade seems a rash move for the Brewers, particularly for the price they had to pay.