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Dayton Moore says a return to Kansas City was not a high priority for Mike Moustakas

It doesn’t sound like the Moose is returning.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made about the possibility of Eric Hosmer returning to Kansas City, and Lorenzo Cain has already left for Milwaukee, but little news has seemed to develop around All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas. Moose is coming off a career-high in home runs, and showed he was able to stay healthy after a knee injury cut his 2016 season short. Just one year older than Hosmer, he has youth on his side that would typically portend a big deal. And yet he remains unsigned well into February.

In an interview with Soren Petro on The Program on 810 WHB on Monday, Dayton Moore was asked if there was any possibility of Mike Moustakas returning to Kansas City. Dayton Moore didn’t completely rule it out, but it did not sound like the team was actively engaged.

“We clearly felt that Hos is the main priority. In trying to project what our team is going to look like in the future, we feel like we have some options, obviously at third base with Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier.”

Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger has written before about how Hosmer is the “key” to the off-season for the Royals, and that any other moves will depend on whether or not they re-sign the All-Star first baseman. Moore emphasized that Eric Hosmer is still their number one priority, and that the club had talks leading up to Christmas with Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, but that talks broke off in January, only to resume in the last week.

“I cant sit here and tell you that we’ve made much progress, but when you’re talking, that’s never a bad thing.”

Jeff Passan reported that Hosmer is asking for a nine-year deal, while the Royals have offered a seven-year deal. The Padres have reportedly also made a seven-year offer, although they believe the Royals have outbid them.

Moore indicated that Moustakas was not much interested in a reunion, at least at the outset of the off-season.

“Clearly, early on...Moose had some expectations that were a little different, certainly with regard with where he wanted to be, where he wanted to play. I’m not sure those opportunities still exist. But it was pretty clear from the beginning, I’m not sure we were a high priority.”

Many reports indicated Moustakas desired to head back to his native California, with the Giants and Angels having interest. But the Giants acquired Evan Longoria to fill third base, and the Angels preferred the positional flexibility of Zack Cozart, signing him to play third base for them. The Mets had shown some interest, but decided to opt for a cheaper deal with Todd Frazier.

The Braves have been uninterested in Moustakas all winter, despite a need at third base. The Cardinals are said to be interested in Moustakas only at a discount. The Yankees have discussed Moustakas, but want to stay under the luxury tax threshold, and still seek to add a pitcher. Moose is clearly the best third baseman left available, but few teams need a third baseman, and many may just want a stop gap to make a run at next year’s class of third basemen that will include Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson.

Before any fans jump on Moose for not prioritizing a return, keep in mind the team was looking to rebuild and reduce payroll, and that he is from southern California, not the Midwest. It made sense for him to conclude this was the end of an era in Kansas City, and with reports of interest in sunny Cali, it seemed like a perfect fit to go home.

Perhaps now that the market has dried up, Moose may have an eye on returning. But the Royals may not see him as part of a rebuild, particularly with the personnel already on the roster. Moose’s absent market is one of the more puzzling developments of this off-season, and we may not know where he ends up until close to Opening Day - if it has even been settled by then.