As you are well aware, the Kansas City Royals have many difficult decisions to make this winter. Here’s why one of those should be to refrain from pursuing Mike Moustakas in free agency.
It’s my opinion that the Kansas City Royals should do everything in their power to bring back Eric Hosmer. I think he was Kansas City’s best player in 2017 and has by far the brightest future ahead of him. There are plenty of folks who disagree, though, and that is more than fine. There is one player, however, that I think the Royals ought to be extra careful when evaluating whether to bring him back.
Mike Moustakas had an absolutely fantastic year in 2017. He finally broke the Kansas City Royals’ ridiculously low home run record of 36 and has set himself up for a very nice payday. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants appear to be the leaders to land Moustakas. I think the Kansas City Royals should let them have Moose at the right price.
Before I really dive in, please understand that I love Mike Moustakas. If the Kansas City Royals could get him back on a four- or five-year deal worth $8-9 million/year, I would take that in a heart beat. I’d even be OK with a four-year, $40 million deal if they could get that done.
The problem is that I think Moose is going to get far more money than he is actually worth. In an article I wrote at the beginning of this month, I projected that Moose would sign with the Angels for five years and $85 million.
I still think that Moose will wind up going home to LA. But I have seen some desire from fans recently that suggests they don’t want their third baseman to go anywhere. I totally understand that line of thinking. Moose is a hero in KC.
I promise you though that KC will be just fine without the services of Moustakas and the money he will make this offseason. Let me help you understand why the Kansas City Royals need to let Moose walk if they can’t get him on a team-friendly deal.
Moustakas is not the young stud that we remember him growing up as. He’s already 29 years old, and he will be 30 by the time the 2018 campaign comes to an end. Moose is going to command at least a four-year deal this offseason. I think it would be dangerous for a small-market team like KC to extend a four-plus-year deal to a 29-year-old third baseman. Particularly one who has only put together two full, good, productive MLB seasons.
It’s impossible to discuss a potential Moustakas contract without bringing up his past injuries. Moose isn’t a small man. Standing at six-foot and weighing 215 pounds, it would be fair to be cautious of any man’s knees going into their thirties. But Moose is an especially interesting example because of his ACL injury back in 2016. Moose tore his ACL on a play in which he collided with Alex Gordon and missed almost the entire season.
Moustakas seemed to have recovered just fine in 2017, but he re aggravated that knee when he was hit by a pitch from Detroit Tigers pitcher Bruce Rondon in a blowout win near the end of July. Moose never quite recovered from that bruising. One thing led to another that played a part in preventing Moose from being the first Kansas City Royals player to hit 40 home runs in a season.
Those things have to be accounted for when considering giving a player a big contract. One of the big reasons that I think Hosmer is the safer long-term investment is his ability to stay healthy over the course of a season. Moose hasn’t played 150 games in a season before and his knees concern me as he and his contract age.
Real Value of His 2017 Season
Yes, Moose broke the Royals’ home run record in 2017. I am aware. I watched him hit the record-breaking home run live. It was an awesome moment for Moose and was the perfect ending to a magical run for this “Core Four.”
But what else did Moose do that was productive at the plate in 2017? He hit the second fewest doubles of any full season in his career. His on-base percentage was down 34 points from his breakout year in 2015. His slugging percentage was up 51 points from 2015. But a lot of players across the league saw an increase in slugging and home runs with the supposedly “juiced balls” and “fly ball revolution.”
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The OBP is what worries me the most about Moose going forward. Moose walked in just 5.7 percent of his plate appearances. That’s not a number that I expect to magically get better in 2018. Moose’s OBP in 2017 was .314; Hosmer finished the season with a .318 batting average.
According to FanGraphs, Moose also finished the season with a 2.2 WAR — good enough for 16th in the MLB among third basemen. Todd Frazier, who hit .213, was worth 3.0 WAR. In my opinion, Moose’s value as an offensive player comes dangerously close to ending with the home run numbers.
Moose is learning to hit the ball in the air more and more as his career goes on. But that’s only an effective strategy if you’re healthy enough to hit those balls over the fence. I’m afraid that those fly balls will slowly turn into easy outs if Moose can’t stay healthy, especially in a stadium as big as Kauffman Stadium.
Let me reiterate that I love Moose. I wish so badly that the Kansas City Royals could bring back all of their free agents (all but Esky) and keep the majority of this core together forever. It won’t look right seeing Moose in another uniform, but it’s what the Kansas City Royals need to do. Signing a third baseman going into his thirties with a history of injury problems to a long-term, big-money deal is not a wise decision for a small-market team.
Dayton Moore and the boys need to let Moose walk if he’s going to make the money that he deserves, and I’m OK with that.