Back in high school, I did what many middle and high schoolers from early 2010’s did. I played Madden regularly. I remember Madden 10 pretty vividly because it was one of the more revolutionary games they had released. It had crazy good graphics and refs debating touchdown calls which, to freshman-in-high-school me, was pretty awesome.
But I remember Madden 10 more specifically because of what I did in franchise mode every time I would start a new franchise. The first thing I would do when I took over was head on over to the free agents screen and nab Edgerin James and Plaxico Burress.
In Madden 10, James and Burress were both in their 30’s and new GM, that seemed like a rash decision. But here’s the thing: I knew what I was doing.
I would play a few games and then trade both James and Burress for several draft picks, including first rounders, and then build my dynasty. Now, this is not a realistic scenario. For starters, I don’t think many teams sign players knowing that they will definitely be trading them, and you certainly don’t see that in the NFL. And if teams were able to use that formula to turn over-the-hill players into first and second round picks, you would see more of it.
That’s why it’s important to remember here that this was a video game. However, this scenario isn’t that different from the one I’m about to propose, which is this:
The Royals should sign Mike Moustakas to another one-year deal and trade him again.
And even though the scenario I concocted in Madden 10 as a 14-year old is absolutely crazy, the scenario I have concocted for this blog post is not crazy, because the Royals did this exact thing in 2017.
So, here’s my argument. The market for Moustakas isn’t great, and that’s unfair to him. As our own Patrick Brennan pointed out yesterday, Moustakas has been the superior player compared to Eric Hosmer since 2015, but only one of them is soaking in a fat contract.
Since 2015...— Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner) November 8, 2018
Mike Moustakas: .267/.324/.484, 95 HR, 114 wRC+, 9.1 fWAR, doesn’t play 1B
Eric Hosmer: .283/.349/.447, 86 HR, 7.6 fWAR, plays 1B
One will be on a one-year deal for the second straight season, one will make 20M in the second year of a seven-year deal
Moustakas drew the short stick last winter and had to sign a one-year prove it deal with Kansas City despite coming off a 38-home run season while Hosmer got a massive deal with San Diego despite not really being that much better in 2017.
That led to Moustakas’ 2018 season, where was actually better than 2017 according to rWAR and nearly equaling his 2017 fWAR (1.7 to 2.1) in just 98 games with the Royals. When Moustakas signed that one-year deal with the Royals for just $6.5 million, it was clear that the contract would be a win-win for Kansas City. Moustakas brought some excitement back with him while also being easy trade bait as a cheap rental.
Whether they intended to trade Moustakas when they signed him or not, they executed it perfectly, netting two solid prospects in Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez for practically nothing.
It was almost too easy. And now, heading into free agency again, Moustakas’ outlook isn’t great. While he was a perfectly capable player in 2018 and even had his moments in the postseason, he is still limited defensively at 3B and sees his value annually slashed by his lack of on-base skills and speed.
The odds that Moustakas makes it all the way to March without a new team is unlikely, but what about his 2018 season will make him more attractive to teams than his 2017 season? Teams don’t have to worry about a qualifying offer like they did last year, but they are also looking at a slightly worse player. Scott Boras will make it difficult for teams looking for a team-friendly deal, so the market for Moustakas could look similar to what it looked like last year.
If that is the case and teams won’t bite on what Boras is baiting them with, there is no reason to not sign Moustakas to another one-year deal, have him hit some taters until July, and then trade him to a contender for a prospect or two. If the Royals were able to do that, they would be playing with house money.
And similar to last year, it would a win-win for the Royals, as Moustakas would bring some excitement to a season we know will be rough.
Major League free agency isn’t Madden 10, so this is a very unlikely scenario. But it isn’t crazy. Heck, Tim Dierkes over at MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Moustakas would wind up back in Kansas City just last week.
There is no qualifying offer on Moustakas, which can both help and hurt the Royals chances, but he is a pretty proven commodity at this point. Best-case scenario, his market doesn’t develop, the Royals sign him cheap, and a team goes into the deadline desperate for some power help on the infield.
Worst-case scenario? I mean, Hunter Dozier loses some at-bats, sure. But he was a -1.3 rWAR player last season and we would be dreaming to think he will be a legitimate contributor on the next Royals contender. I don’t really see a true worst case scenario, as long as Dayton Moore doesn’t do that thing where he gives a regressing veteran a bloated contracts with lots of mutual options.
Honestly, the worst-case scenario here is for Moustakas, which is unfortunate. In my heart of hearts, I hope Moose is able to get paid because this might very well be his last chance to. But if Moustakas’ market doesn’t pick up and his stock falls like it did last year, I think the Royals could benefit from a reunion.