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.