The last game of the 2017 season was presumptively Mike Moustakas' final appearance with the KC Royals. Together with fan favorites Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, Moose was about to become a free agent for the first time, and nothing suggested he'd re-sign with Kansas City. A deal too rich for the Royals to match had to be waiting for Moustakas, who'd rightfully called third base his own since his 2011 rookie season.
But the free agent market turned out to be more foe than friend for Moustakas. The mega-deal many assumed he'd find never materialized, forcing him back to Kansas City on a one-year deal he signed during spring training. No one expected him to last the season with the Royals, and he didn't — the club sent him to Milwaukee in a trade deadline deal that netted it Jorge López and Brett Phillips.
After that, there was no mistaking the gaping hole Moose's absence created at the Kansas City hot corner. Hunter Dozier, Maikel Franco, Adalberto Mondesi, Emmanuel Rivera, and Kelvin Gutiérrez all spent time at the position without winning it permanently, and Bobby Witt Jr. played there in 2022 out of necessity, but is now the Royals' present and future shortstop.
Things changed this year, though. The Royals called Maikel García up from Omaha May 2, put him at third for their 30th game of the season, and there he stuck. By the time the campaign ended, he'd played third base 104 times and established himself as an excellent defender and adequate hitter.
Now, however, and after only a season of restored hot corner stability, some seem to believe the Royals should trade García.
General manager J.J. Picollo should say "No."
The Royals would be wrong to deal away Maikel García
The rumblings aren't loud, at least not yet, but they can be heard. Scour the Internet for a bit, and you'll discover scattered sentiment that García is someone Kansas City should move to bring about improvement.
The primary reason some believe trading García would be a good thing is the notion that he's a shortstop, not a third baseman, a status rendering him especially attractive to clubs short on shortstops. But while it's true García came up through the Kansas City system as a shortstop, that he now plays third isn't sufficient reason to deal him away.
That's especially true after what he accomplished in 2023, a fine performance that earned him this writer's choice as Kansas City's Rookie of the Year. Manager Matt Quatraro's frequent choice to bat leadoff, García finished with a .272 average over 123 games and stole 23 bases.
More immediately relevant to third base, however, is how he played the position. Despite not being a "natural" third sacker, he led American League third basemen in Runs Prevented (11) and Outs Above Average (13) and, at the most basic statistical level, his .972 fielding percentage was 10 points better than league average. He certainly could have won a Gold Glove, but unfortunately didn't.
Yet, some promote the idea of trading García, citing again the fact he's not a third baseman. To the contrary, he's proving himself to be a good one. He's earned the job.
The Royals should keep him.