Mike Moustakas’ Interesting Arbitration Case

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Mike Moustakas has, at several points, displayed flashes of brilliance on the ball field. Of course, those flashes were typically during Spring Training, but his power capabilities truly came alive during the Royals postseason run as he crushed five playoff home runs. Yet, even with the power heroics, Moustakas only produced a combined .231/.259/.558 postseason batting line.

That performance, although on a bigger stage, was a microcosm of what Moustakas has been like. He hit two home runs against both the Angels and the Orioles in the postseason, including his game winning blast. Yet, he had a grand total of two other hits in those series combined.

Now, the Royals and Mike Moustakas have come to the point where they need to figure out what, exactly, is his value. No longer under those minimum contracts over the first three years of his career, Moustakas is set to head into arbitration. This seems to be an interesting case, as Moustakas has filed for $3.1 Million next year, while the Royals counted with a $1.85 Million offer. What type of value does the enigmatic Moustakas have for the Royals next season?

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As Hunter pointed out last week, Moustakas hits an inordinate amount of popups, keeping his raw numbers at a below replacement level. That penchant for the popup, along with his dead pull tendencies, have made Moustakas a career .236/.290/.379 hitter. His 56 home runs are nice, but Moustakas also has an OPS+ of 82. Players like Alex Sanchez and Kila Ka’aihue have a higher OPS+ than that over their careers. Even Yuniesky Betancourt produced an OPS+ of 80.

But wait, Mike Moustakas provides value defensively! Only, he really does not. As Hunter pointed out last month (essentially, you should all just read Hunter’s work and ignore mine) Moustakas’s defensive reputation surpasses his actual performance. While he was stellar in 2012, Moustakas has not been close to the same player over the past two seasons.

At this point, Moustakas is a player who hits the occasional home run and can make the spectacular play, but does not provide much elsewhere. As it is, if Moustakas continues to perform at the same level and Christian Colon proves he can handle the major leagues in an extended sample size, Moustakas may not have much of a leash. Then, prospects liek Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier are on the cusp of reaching the majors. 2015 is, for quite a few reasons, an important year for Mike Moustakas.

What are the occasional home run and solid defense worth? Mike Moustakas and the Royals will find out soon enough.

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