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At what point should the Royals consider a long-term contract for Mike Moustakas?

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Moose has been the Royals best hitter early on in 2018, should the Royals consider extending him long-term?

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Hi there. My name is Alex. I’m the guy that wrote this over the offseason: “The Royals Need to Stay Far Away From Mike Moustakas”. In the event that you didn’t read that, let me defend myself. Here’s the gist.

I explain in the article that I was worried about Moose’s knee and his weight, about his xStats (expected number of home runs vs actual home runs hit), and his on-base percentage in 2017 (.314). For reference, Eric Hosmer’s batting average in 2017 was .318, four points higher than Moose’s OBP.

The main point of my concern with Moose was the long-term contract. I said before the beginning of the year that I thought the New York Yankees would be dumb not to sign him to a one-year deal if he didn’t have any other offers. I have no concerns with Moose for the next season or two. I still have my concerns with Moose long-term, but Moose is starting to repeatedly hit my concerns over the right field fence.

At this very moment, I still don’t think it wise for the Royals to offer Moose an extension on his current contract. Moose is currently slashing .304/.333/.609 with seven home runs, but there’s still plenty of season left and I'd want to make dang sure that Moose can play an entire season and perform similarly to what he is doing right now before offering him a 3-5 year deal. Moose has been barreling everything so far in 2018, but his BB% is actually lower than it was in 2017 when he posted a .314 OBP. That’s a bit worrisome, and I’d like to see that BB% improve before handing out the big bucks.

However, I believe there is a point in time in which an extension will become appropriate for the Royals and Mike Moustakas. There’s just a few check points I'd like to see Moose check before I'd be comfortable with that extension.

A Poor Trade Market

The first thing that must happen for a Mike Moustakas extension to take place is that the trade market in 2018 must be as poor as it was in 2017. One of the biggest reasons that the Royals became buyers at the trade deadline last season, instead of sellers, was that the trade market wasn’t fetching anything of substance for hitters. JD Martinez, the best hitter on the market, couldn’t even fetch a top 100 prospect for Detroit. Dayton Moore and the Royals front office made the decision that the draft pick compensation they would receive in return for the departures of Moose, Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer, would be greater than the prospect return in a trade.

It’s nearly impossible to tell how the trade market will shape up this summer. The New York Yankees seemed like a good fit for Moose before Miguel Andujar started hitting well. They could still use Moose as a DH/3B, especially if they are in a battle with the Red Sox for the AL East crown, but markets dwindle all the time. If that’s the case, then maybe an extension for Moose would be possible.

But what if the trade market heats up? The Red Sox are only an injury or two away from possibly needing Moose’s assistance. Same could be said for the LA Angels. If the market for Moose heats up, and there is potential for Moose to return a top 100 prospect back to Kansas City, it would be irresponsible of GMDM to not pull the trigger on that deal. In the event of a rise in the trade market, Moose won’t be extended.

Keep in mind that Manny Machado is almost certainly going to be traded this summer, putting a serious damper on the bidding war that would’ve otherwise potentially gone on for Moose.

An Improved Walk Rate

One of the biggest issues I originally had with signing Mike Moustakas to a long-term deal is that Moose simply makes too many outs. In 2017, Moose was only on base at a .314 clip, good for 113th in baseball among qualified hitters. Ben Gamel, Orlando Arcia, and Jordy Mercer all made outs at a lower rate than Mike Moustakas in 2017. Moose’s walk rate dropped to a career low 5.7% and his OBP suffered because of it.

Mike Moustakas currently has his OBP is up 19 points from 2017. This is mostly due in part because his batting average is up 28 points. Moose’s BB% is actually down from 5.7% in 2017 to 4.1% this year, something that I'm not a huge fan of moving forward.

Let’s say though that July rolls around, and the trade market for Mike Moustakas is still in the dumps. If Moose can get his walk rate back up to his career mark of 6.4% or higher, hopefully more towards 7-8%, showing a little more plate discipline, then I think Dayton Moore ought to be more comfortable offering Moose and extension than he probably was this past offseason.

No DL Stints

One of the biggest things that I think plagued Moose this offseason when it came to a lack of offers is the fact that he’s had some knee troubles in the past. No, the ACL tear was not Moose’s fault. It was a freak accident, I am well aware of that. But he still tore his ACL. Athletes who tear one ACL become much more likely to tear their other ACL as well. It’s a rough injury that has lasting side effects.

Couple that with the hit by pitch that Moose suffered from Bruce Rondon last summer that caused fluid to run down his leg and into his knee, and you had a bad recipe headed into a contract offseason. The concerns about Moose’s knee and his weight were very real, but it appears that Moose addressed these concerns in the offseason. Moose looks good and appears to be completely healthy for the first time in a while.

If July rolls around and Moose has avoided any DL stints, an extension could be very possible for the Royals single-season home run record holder.

Conclusion

Here’s the gist: an extension for Moose would take a lot of things to go right, but it’s not impossible. If July rolls around and Moose is hitting .290/.340/.500 with 25 home runs and Dayton Moore doesn’t like the offers he’s getting for Moose, maybe an extension is the right way to go. If you can keep Moose and Salvy on the big league roster for the next 3-4 years while the Royals rebuild, they will certainly be more fun to watch.

What do you think, Royals fans? Should the Royals already be working on an extension for Moose? Should they trade him at the deadline regardless of what the return is? Let me know what you think, I’ll see you all in the comments.