The Royals met earlier this week with Scott Boras to discuss free agents Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Earlier, I took a look at what teams could be in on Hosmer and Moustakas and took a look at what Eric Hosmer can expect to get this off-season. Today, we turn to his bro, Mike Moustakas.
Not many players have had the playing career arc of Mike Moustakas. He was a highly touted first round pick, then was a top ten prospect in baseball after raking in the upper minors. But he flopped to begin his career, hitting just .236/.290/.379 over his first four seasons, numbers worse than journeyman Ryan Roberts over the same period. By May of 2014, he had been demoted back to Omaha.
Things began to click for Moose towards the end of that season. He began going the other way, using the entire field to beat the radical defensive shifts he was facing. The result was a career season in 2015, resulting in his first All-Star appearance as he hit .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs. He looked to be on the same track in 2016 before he collided with Alex Gordon while pursuing a foul ball, tearing his ACL and causing him to miss the final four months of the season.
In 2017, Moose went back to pulling the ball, and became much less patient in the plate. However he also enjoyed his best power season, setting the franchise record for home runs in a season with 38. He was named to his second All-Star team, and was tenth among all third baseman in wRC+ with 114, although his defensive fell off, likely due to lingering issues with his knee.
We are in a bit of a “golden age” for third basemen, so the bar has been raised. Major League third basemen in Moose’s rookie season of 2011 collectively hit .252/.317/.390, while last year they hit .258/.330/.445. Moustakas’ line of .272/.314/.521 is solid, but perhaps less impressive in that light.
Still, there are very few third basemen available in this market. Todd Frazier will likely net a multi-year deal, although he is three years older. The teams that miss out on Frazier or Moustakas will have to sort through the likes of Yunel Escobar, Eduardo Nunez, and Trevor Plouffe.
Much like Hosmer, the youth of Mike Moustakas will help him considerably in free agency. The 29-year old seems like a much better bet the next few seasons than Frazier, Escobar, or Nunez, all of whom are on the wrong side of 30. And Moose is peaking at the right time, he has hit .275/.329/.496 in 322 games over the last three seasons, showing his power spike is not really a fluke, and he is different hitter than when he began his MLB career.
That youth and new level of performance could help him considerably on the market. Consider that Pablo Sandoval, who received a five-year, $95 million deal from the Red Sox in 2014, put up rather pedestrian numbers leading up to free agency. But he had shown signs of being great, and his youth persuaded the Red Sox to splurge.
Here is what big time third basemen have gotten on the open market the last few seasons, and how they performed in their three seasons leading up to free agency. The age listed is how old they were at the time of the signing.
Recent third basemen signings
|Pablo Sandoval||2012-2014||.280||.335||.424||114||7.5||28||5 years, $95 million|
|Chase Headley||2012-2014||.262||.352||.429||123||15.2||30||4 years, $52 million|
|Justin Turner||2014-2016||.296||.364||.492||137||12.7||31||4 years, $64 million|
You can look at this and conclude perhaps that top shelf third basemen don’t necessarily get big paydays, and that Sandoval was the outlier. Or perhaps Sandoval got his payday because he was under 30 years old, as Moustakas is, and got paid for future expectations.
Moose was a 3.7 fWAR player in 2015, and how much he gets will depend on how much teams think he is still that kind of player. His defensive decline last year may just be temporary, but there could still be lingering concerns about his knee. Moose is also not in the most peak physical shape, so there could be concerns that his defense could decline precipitously as he ages. Still, his bat could play at first base, although his more aggressive approach has hurt his on-base percentage, making him less valuable.
With so few power options in the market, I think Moose could be in for a handsome payday, even with home runs being cheap in this era. Even with a down year defensively, he is still very adequate at third, and several teams could use a left-handed power bat in their lineup. Moose should land a five-year deal, and my guess is he can command as much as $90 million on the market, although perhaps he would take less money to go back to sunny California.
Here are the predictions on how much Moustakas will get in free agency from Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and the crowd-sourced predictions from Fangraphs, Jon Heyman at FanRag and his “expert”, MLB Trade Rumors, Ken Davidoff at the New York Post, and John Harper of the New York Daily News.
Mike Moustakas contract estimates
|MLB Trade Rumors||5/$85M|
How much do you think Mike Moustakas will get in this market?