Third baseman Mike Moustakas was a headline figure in the slow-moving 2017/18 free agency. He’s gone under the radar in 2018/19, but it has been much the same.
Moustakas became a free agent despite a mutual option with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2019 season. The 2015 World Series winner settled for $5.5 million and a return to the Royals last offseason, but there is a lot uncertainty about where Moustakas will play next season. Rumours have been patchy.
The strength of third base makes free agency challenging. Unlike other high-profile free agents this offseason, it’s not simple finding a 2019 home for Moustakas. He’s a good, not great, hitter and a solid defender, but a lot of contenders have better players at third base.
Manny Machado’s free agency has obviously impacted Moustakas’. Teams in on Machado could pivot to Moustakas when the former Oriole eventually signs.
Below are a handful of teams who should be considering a move for Moustakas, perhaps regardless of Machado.
It’s no secret that the Phillies are keen on Machado. Whether he would play shortstop is unknown, with offseason arrival Jean Segura expected to fill in. Philadelphia’s big-name hunting has not gone as they would have hoped.
They could, of course, still land Machado and Bryce Harper, creating a terrifying line-up, making them one of the favourites for the World Series. Moustakas, though, should not be a backup plan for the Phillies.
Moustakas is a greater guarantee at third than Maikel Franco, though they were similarly effective in 2018. It would give depth and flexibility. Segura is capable of playing either spot up the middle and could shift to second if Machado arrived to play short.
Philadelphia might be happy to roll with Franco. That’s okay, of course, but he’s only a year away from a 76 wRC+ season. Moustakas on a one or two-year deal is a good fit even for a team willing to spend stupid money.
This is the obvious fit. Milwaukee traded for Jonathan Schoop and Moustakas last season. Schoop was non-tendered and there are offensive holes in the infield without Moustakas.
The Travis Shaw at second experiment worked well enough for Moustakas to be a realistic option for the Brewers. Hernan Perez and Orlando Arcia are projected to start up the middle – both are below league average hitters.
Milwaukee would have to give up some defence to land the former Royal, though that didn’t bother them last season. Their line-up is good as it is, but if they add Moustakas, it will be downright scary with Yasmani Grandal (projected 115 wRC+) potentially hitting down in seventh.
In a competitive division, a move like this could make all the difference for Milwaukee.
San Diego Padres
San Diego popped up in the Harper and Machado sweepstakes last month. Next season is the target year for the Padres as they end their rebuild, obviously acquiring one of the stars could change that.
Fernando Tatis and Luis Urias are set for the middle infield spots long-term. Machado would be arriving to play third, meaning the Padres are only really players for Moustakas if they do not land the former Dodger.
As it stands, Ian Kinsler will be playing third base. The majority of projections have Kinsler at below league average in 2019, considerably worse than Moustakas. His glove is still good, but they need better production from third if they are to overachieve this season.
Unless they give Machado the deal he wants, and it seems unlikely he will end up in southern California, the Padres should be moving to add Moustakas. It’s not impossible they breakout this year, particularly in the flimsy National League West. If they are way out of it at the deadline, he can fetch a couple of prospects, as we saw last season.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have been involved for the big two all summer. Like San Diego, the South Siders are coming to the end of a rebuild and have an elite prospect, Eloy Jimenez, arriving early this season.
The arrivals of veterans Kelvin Herrera, Yonder Alonso, Jon Jay and Alex Colome have given the basis of a competitive roster. The line-up is still lacking, though, with Yolmer Sanchez projected for over 500 plate appearances and an 86 wRC+.
Swapping Sanchez for Moustakas might not be the most exciting move, but it is a marked upgrade. Paired with a big year from Jimenez and perhaps another free agent, Moustakas could play a key role in a strong offence.
The White Sox have a tiny payroll at the moment, giving them flexibility to pay for Moustakas. It makes plenty of sense, but Chicago could wait it out for another season and see how their prospects develop if they cannot land Harper or Machado.