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Kansas City Royals

Heyman | Mike Moustakas still unable to cash in

Jon Heyman

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Mar 19, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) waits on deck against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Moustakas’ strange, oddly unsatisfying winter drags on. How much longer is anyone’s guess.

There were talks with the Angels early. But they moved on quickly and signed All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart instead to play third. There were talks later with the Yankees, who very much like Moustakas, but those talks apparently ended when they acquired Brandon Drury, who won’t even make the minimum this year. The Yankees were probably Moustakas’ best hope to this point, and that would have been a good spot for a potential short-term “pillow” contract to reset his value in a great lineup with the famed short porch at Yankee Stadium.

Moustakas and the Yankees were talking mostly about one- and two-year possibilities that could keep the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold they are determined to avoid. But ultimately, New York valued the ability to stay way under the threshold (they are somewhere between $16 million and $22 million under depending on who’s doing the estimating), so they took another player they liked (Drury) who’ll making only six figures this year since he isn’t even arbitration-eligible yet.

“The Yankees would have been perfect for Moose,” said the Cubs’ Kris Bryant. “He’d hit 40 home runs there.” (That’s probably not a leap since he hit nearly that many in pitcher/friendly Royals Stadium.)

Moustakas looked like he had the potential to hit the jackpot this winter after putting together a career year in Kansas City, hitting a franchise-record 38 home runs. But Moustakas was hurt by a few factors.

One is that home runs seemingly have been devalued. Strangely, sluggers have been almost ignored on a market that valued middle relievers much higher.

Another is that on-base percentage is a big factor, and his has never been great (.314 last year).

Another is that he has a compensation attached to him, meaning signing teams would lose a draft choice, since he was extended the qualifying offer by the Royals. He could wait until after the June draft to sign to avoid that issue, but that seems like a long shot for a player of his stature.

Yet another issue is that while he’s seen as a solid team guy, he isn’t exactly a bon vivant in terms of personality like former Royals teammate Eric Hosmer, who was the leader of that team along with Salvy Perez. When asked, Royals GM Dayton Moore said only good things about Moustakas (and he has considered bringing him back, but unlike at first base, he has options for third, including Cheslor Cuthbert), and friends Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, the third great Royals free agent, say great things, as well. But once in a while you hear mixed comments on the rumor mill, like a temper (of course, when Paul O’Neill used to have tantrums, they called him “The Warrior” for it, so that’s a little unfair).

The biggest issue may be his position. Third base is a bear; even a star like Justin Turner only had one offer last winter, from his own Dodgers team. And this year, some teams may be saving up for Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson next year.

But as Turner pointed out, not everyone gets those two guys.

“What are they going to do, split them up in eight parts?”

He was referring to all the teams that seem to be waiting for one of the two superstars — two superstars very few teams can ultimately afford, anyway.

In the meantime, Moustakas waits.

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.

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