Let’s Find a Home for Mike Moustakas

In this slowest of markets, one of the players who might be most adversely affected is Mike Moustakas.

Some thought it was possible, as the offseason began, that Moustakas might receive a $100-million deal this winter. Not only was he a third baseman who’d just authored a 38-homer season, but he was also still on the right side of 30. Of course, that sort of deal hasn’t emerged. It seems increasingly unlikely to emerge with each day.

Dave predicted a five-year, $95-million pact for Moustakas. The crowd predicted a five-year deal, as well, for $10 million fewer overall. Neither option seems probable at the moment: no free agent to date has secured more than a three-year contract, and there hasn’t been much reported interested in Moustakas.

Mark Feinsand examined the market for Moustakas for MLB.com at the end of last week:

According to a source, teams expressed early interest in Moustakas but had second thoughts after hearing his asking price. The Angels had been frequently tagged as a potential destination for Moustakas, but Los Angeles moved quickly (well, quickly for this market, anyway) and signed Zack Cozart to a three-year, $38-million contract to fill its hole at third base.

“He’s a solid player, but not a star,” one general manager said. “When you see what Bruce got from the Mets, it’s hard to see Moustakas getting more than that.”

Both Bruce and Cozart received three-year deals for roughly $40 million this offseason. Cozart appeared just after Moustakas in our free-agent rankings, suggesting that he might serve as a reasonable comp for the former Royal. So even with relative youth on his side, the precedent for Moustakas isn’t great.

That said, he’s a solid regular. He’ll end up somewhere this offseason. Let’s try to find out where.

Among the projected contending clubs that have a remaining third-base need, there isn’t an abundance of natural fits. He probably would not provide enough of an upgrade for the Brewers (1.8 projected WAR from third base) or Mets (1.9) for either team to consider a multi-year deal that pays more than eight figures guaranteed per annum. We’re projecting Moustakas to produce 2.8 WAR, 30 homers and a 113 wRC+ in 2018.

In a vacuum, the Yankees make sense due to the club’s lack of a “proven” third baseman. Their park is also the ideal environment for a pull-happy, fly-balling left-handed hitter.

Consider: Moustakas ranked 11th in total line drives and fly balls hit to his pull side (304) last year and 33rd in HR/FB to the pull side last season (49.2%) last season. And that was despite playing his home games at Kauffman Stadium.

Moustakas is a highly unusual player in that he has a higher road wRC+ (97) for his career than home (95). That was once again the case last season, when he posted a 132 wRC+ on the road, compared to a 94 mark at home. His road wRC+ 31st in baseball.

A change of ballpark environments could help Moustakas more than most players.

According to the ballpark factor splits at Baseball Prospectus, the top home-run ballpark factor for left-handed batters was Yankee Stadium (124), which probably doesn’t surprise anyone. Kansas City’s left-handed, home-run factor (99) ranked 35th among 60 splits.

But the Yankees will soon probably have to shuffle their infield around to accommodate Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Also, there’s the issue of the current CBA, which renders a deal with New York improbable. New York seems determined to remain below the luxury-tax threshold and reset their tax-paying status. They have about $20 million in payroll space with which to work. Not only are they trying to stay under a more punitive tax, but a player like Moustakas, who declined the qualifying offer, would cost the Yankees both their second- and fifth-round pick for signing him.

If Moustakas is still a free agent after spring-training camps begin, maybe he could begin to look at a short-term deal, try to post a monster year in Yankee Stadium, and return to the market. That’s a lot of ifs and maybes, though.

While the Yankees are an unlikely match, there are other favorable environments, including the most obvious fit: Atlanta.

The Braves have a glaring void at third and money to spend. They are projected to finish last in third-base WAR (0.5). Craig Edwards made the case that the Braves ought to be aggressive in this market, also noting that Moustakas would fit well. The Braves could be a sleeeper team in 2018. Not only does the team have a need, but the park would be an upgrade for Moustakas’ batted-ball profile. SunTrust’s left-handed split ranked 12th (108) last season for home runs. Earlier in the offseason, the Angels had a glaring third-base need but filled it with Cozart.

If the Braves are uninterested, it’s unclear where Moustakas might fit. One club that has the payroll space and could front load a deal — as they have with the free agents this season — is the Phillies.

Based upon the last two seasons, Maikel Franco does not look like the answer at third base, and Citizens Bank Park was the best home-run environment for left-handed hitters outside of the Bronx last season. Philadelphia’s ballpark home-run factor ranked third overall for lefties (118) — and second for right-handed batters — last season, according to BP.

While the Phillies might not have real ambitions to contend until 2019, Moustakas is young enough where he could be a viable part of contending teams in 2019 and beyond. The Phillies do not seem like a probable fit, but Moustakas is approaching the point in the offseason when he might become a value and teams revisit him.

We’re in a strange place. It’s never been more difficult for a 29-year-old coming off a 38-homer season — one who can play an adequate hot corner, as well — to find a home.





A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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francis_soyer
4 years ago

Should be Queens, probably will be the Bronx.

CaseysPartner
4 years ago
Reply to  francis_soyer

Does anyone really need a .305 career OBP in their lineup?

sabrtooth
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

Despite a lackluster OBP, he’s still been an above-average hitter for three years. Looking only at his career numbers pretty blatantly ignores the abrupt change in his production between 2014 and 2015, after which he posted much more power, slightly better contact and walk rates.

If the market causes him to take a cheap (and short) deal, this sounds like a good thing for the signing team.

CaseysPartner
4 years ago
Reply to  sabrtooth

Walk rates don’t matter.

OBP matters. The Mouse sucks. If you can’t post an OBP above .330 I don’t want you in my lineup. I’m not going to look at anything else if you can’t meet that minimum standard.

He isn’t worth more than a $2 million one year contract. It’s pitiful that fact isn’t obvious.

burts_beads
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

You don’t have a lineup, unless you’re telling us about your OOTP career or something.

sabrtooth
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

You’ve got awfully strong statistical opinions for someone who doesn’t understand linear weights.

CaseysPartner
4 years ago
Reply to  sabrtooth

I understand baseball and “linear weights” have nothing to do with that.

If six teams tanking start a 3B with a .220 OBP that’s going to knock down the average quite a lot isn’t it?

Did the Astros win the Series by looking at what the averages were and then putting someone a tick above that number at each position.?

Man up and recognize the egregious error of your thinking.

tb.25
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

1) when did a career .303 OBP becomes .220?

2) I think we found someone who believes Moneyball as gospel

3) this guy has had flawed arguments in every post on this article. And he wants others to own up for correct thinking?
Hahha that’s hilarious.

francis_soyer
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

Moose’s last 3 years OBP looks like Reddick’s prior 3 years OBP last January.

sabrtooth
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

Oh crap, this is FreeAEC again. He’s used this name on mlbtraderumors.

sadtrombonemember
4 years ago
Reply to  sabrtooth

It gets better. He’s got a bunch of different accounts that he uses to upvote his posts and downvote everyone who disagrees with him (refresh the page a few times to see him at work, and take a look at the ownership poll to see his other handiwork).

Who wants to be the one to email Fangraphs?

sabrtooth
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

The internet never forgets, in case anyone’s missing the context: http://articles.latimes.com/1995-11-02/local/me-63908_1_hate-crimes

cjbrassa
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Oh, I was wondering what was going on. Who has time for that? What a loser.

cjbrassa
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

What’s going on here? The bad posts are upvoted, and the posts that make sense are downvoted into oblivion.

TKDCmember
4 years ago
Reply to  cjbrassa

It’s one troll with a lot of time and no friends.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
4 years ago
Reply to  TKDC

I’m enjoying this. It’s Bizarro Fangraphs!

francis_soyer
4 years ago
Reply to  CaseysPartner

2012-2014: .289
2015-2017: .329