The Royals insist they are not being active in the free agent market, but are sitting back and keeping an eye on things, in case any bargains fall into their lap. With Danny Duffy backloading his deal, the Royals are looking at a payroll of about $135 million for this year, which may give them some wiggle room financially. We are seeing a deflated market for sluggers, with many designated hitter options available. One potential target could be Brandon Moss.
Moss was a bit of a late bloomer after being taken in the eighth round of the 2002 draft by the Boston Red Sox. He bounced around from the Red Sox to the Pirates to the Phillies, and was only a lifetime .236/.300/.382 in 749 plate appearances when he signed as a free agent with the Oakland Athletics in 2011.
Like so many other sluggers, Moss became an underappreciated asset who bloomed in Oakland, hitting .254/.340/.504 over a three-year period, averaging 25 home runs per season. Royals fans will recall him from the 2014 Wild Card Game, when his second home run of the night off Yordano Ventura seemed to doom the Royals.
Moss moved on to Cleveland before being traded to St. Louis, where he spent last season hitting .225/.300/.484 with 28 home runs. Now 33 years old, his numbers have dropped from his prime in Oakland, but he still provides good power from the left side. His .259 ISO was 15th in all of baseball last year among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances.
Moss can hit the ball hard. His 40% hard-contact rate was 20th in baseball last year, according to Fangraphs. He was fifth in baseball in average distance on batted balls, according to Baseball Savant.
He has a pretty big platoon split, which would probably mean he would have to sit against tough lefties. On those days Paulo Orlando could play right field with Jorge Soler at designated hitter. Moss had a .664 OPS against lefties last year compared to an .828 OPS against righties.
Moss finished horribly last year, hitting under .200 after the All-Star break and having a disastrous September in which he went just 9-for-91 with 33 strikeouts. He strikes out a lot: 26.9% for his career and over 30% of the time last year. He can be a fairly patient hitter however, with a 9.3% walk rate, although with his low batting average, he has had trouble getting his on-base percentage over .300 the last two seasons.
As an outfielder, Moss is not bad at all, although he likely won’t be asked to play the field on a regular basis. He can hold his own catching flyballs, and even has experience at first base, although his defensive numbers are much worse there. Moss suffered a left-ankle sprain that landed him on the disabled list last year, but he has been fairly durable in his career, playing in at least 145 games every year from 2013-2015. The Baltimore Orioles have shown some interest in him as a designated hitter.
Both ZIPS and Steamer project him to hit around .230/.310/.445, barely above replacement level. Moss would probably require just a one-year deal worth around $6-9 million. Of course, if the Royals cannot afford to sign Brandon Moss, they may look for "the next Brandon Moss," a late blooming slugger available for cheap, like perhaps former Mariners outfielder Stefen Romero.