Last week it was written about at Sports Illustrated, and just today it was written about on KoK, and there probably are numerous arguments to be given that says the Royals should lock up many of their young talents to contracts before they get to their arbitration years. But really, there’s no rush.
The players that are getting the most attention for this treatment are the two corner infielders that have seemingly been charged with the revitalization of the franchise, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. And while the two have the public traits and the draft pedigree to warrant such lofty aspirations, they still are very young.
The model most talked about is the one executed by the Tampa Bay Rays in recent years with their new contracts to both Evan Longoria and Matt Moore. With Moore, the Rays took a gamble on a young pitcher that would appear brilliant or risky, or both, because he’s a pitcher and there’s always the possibility of an injury. But, there’s also the possibility that he grows to be one of the twenty best pitchers in baseball soon – he’s certainly talented enough for it – so it could be a brilliant move.
With Longoria, the contract most cited around baseball when fans of teams talk about locking up young talents, the Rays didn’t necessarily go out on that weak of a limb to get that deal done.
Longoria came from college and was one of the more polished and major league ready (or close) talents in the draft. In just two seasons in the minor leagues he hit .300/.386/.541 and played elite level defense. During his first season (when the contract was agreed upon) he hit .272/.343/.531 with 27 homeruns. Yes the Rays were shrewd to give him a new deal, but it wasn’t as if they were taking that big of a chance.
In the case of Hosmer and Moustakas it isn’t as clear a decision as it was for Longoria.
Hosmer will be the same age this year, 22, as Longoria was during his rookie season. While his traits are similar to Longoria’s in that he has an elite-level approach at the plate and the potential for equal defense, there’s still time to let him prove himself a little more in the major leagues before trying to establish a value for him.
Moustakas though is different than either position player.
It’s been written about enough on the many Royals websites that the one thing Moustakas lacks offensively is the ability to work a walk. That can be either justified by his success throughout the minor leagues and in September of last year, or explained within his aggressive approach and power, but a lack of an ability to draw walks will decrease the overall value just a bit. And, unlike either Hosmer or Longoria, make it harder to predict the player’s floor performance.
Listed at 5-11 (which knowing baseball listing standards, is probably generous) and 230, Moustakas is also no more than an average-at-best athlete whose defensive abilities will often be questioned, leaving almost full value in his on-field production being what he does with the bat. It’s not all that surprising, and probably exactly what the Royals themselves expect, which is what the lack of walks allows: too much fluctuation year-to-year in his offensive performance.
At this point, there’s just not enough data on what type of hitter Moustakas will be to justify the new contract.
Understandably this is a topic of conversation. The Royals finally has some real, projectable talent on the roster that isn’t the type you have to talk yourself into seeing. Hosmer’s all-around game and Moustakas’ power are real, special talents that need to be in Kansas City and performing for the team to reach the next level.
But there’s still time. There’s still time to figure out exactly what each player is, before throwing money at them at a time when it’s not necessary.