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Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.
Today: Mike Moustakas, a third baseman who’s been connected to the Phillies multiple times over the last two years and whose agent the Phillies have already touched base with this offseason.
You know what you’re getting with Mike Moustakas: power, a .250ish batting average, an OPS about 10 percent above the league average and defense that won’t hurt you.
He’s not Top 5 at his position or even Top 10, but he’s a helpful player who can bat fifth or sixth and produce runs. Moustakas’ .845 OPS last season was 14th among qualifying third basemen, but it was 130 points higher than Maikel Franco’s. If the 2019 Phillies had Moustakas, they probably would have won a few more games.
Moustakas will play the 2020 season at age 31. His 101 home runs the last three seasons are 14th-most in the majors and fifth-most among third basemen. That list:
Nolan Arenado: 116
Eugenio Suarez: 109
Joey Gallo: 103
Manny Machado: 102
Mike Moustakas: 101
Why he fits
The Phillies need another productive everyday player at third base, shortstop or center field. Scott Kingery’s defensive flexibility allows the Phillies to pick from multiple position groups.
If the Phillies can add only one of Didi Gregorius or Moustakas, for example, they’d have to weigh whether Moustakas’ power or Gregorius’ all-around game is more beneficial to their infield.
For the Phillies, signing Moustakas to a two-year deal would allow them more time for Alec Bohm to develop (especially defensively) at Triple A. It would also buy the Phils an extra year to figure out whether Bohm can even play third base, whether Bohm may need to move to first base and make Rhys Hoskins expendable, or whether Bohm himself could be used as a trade chip.
Why he doesn’t fit
If you sign Moustakas to a two- or three-year deal, and Bohm does develop and force the issue, then what? Then you’ve created a problem for yourself and a need to trade somebody to make room on the infield corners.
In theory, it may sound like no big deal — if that happens, you can flip one of Hoskins, Bohm or Moustakas for a player at an area of need. But it doesn’t always work out that way. The league would see the Phillies’ need to make a deal and that would diminish some of the Phils’ leverage.
Moustakas’ age isn’t a big concern — at 31, he’s at the tail-end of his prime, and his next contract is unlikely to take him into his late-30s.
The price tag
Moustakas was forced to sign one-year deals each of the last two offseasons. He deserved better but the free-agent market isn’t always fair or linear.
Coming off a career-high 38 homers in 2017, Moustakas rejected the Royals’ qualifying offer of $15 million and ultimately had to settle for a one-year, $6.5 million deal to return to Kansas City.
Then Moustakas hit 28 homers and drove in 95 runs with a .774 OPS and had to settle for another one-year deal, this time for $10 million with Milwaukee ($3 million of which came in the form of a 2020 buyout from the Brewers).
This winter, Moustakas should finally find a multi-year deal. Something like two years, $24 million seems fair. Moustakas’ side (he’s represented by Scott Boras) will want more years, but teams will be hestitant to commit to his age-33 season. Moustakas still might get three years.
It will be interesting to see whether Moustakas or Josh Donaldson signs first. Both have incentive to let the other set the market. Donaldson was the better player in 2019 but Moustakas was the better and healthier player overall from 2017-19.
“Fair defender. Power is solid, results are there. Limited athleticism. Threat in the middle of the lineup but the body gives concern for excessive years of commitment.”
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