The Royals are 14-32 and I think it is fairly safe to say they won’t have a pennant-chasing run in them as they have in past seasons. The Royals have suggested they are rebuilding, but so far the reconstruction has taken place on the fringes. This summer, they have a chance to really begin building towards the future in earnest, with an important draft, a ripe international market, and the opportunity to add prospects at the July trade deadline.
You can expect a summer of swirling trade rumors, and perhaps the first one began over the weekend when the Braves released third baseman Jose Bautista. Bautista hit just .143 and was a defensive mess, a short-lived experiment that seemed ill-fated from the beginning. The Braves have said that Johan Camargo will be their regular third baseman, and while he is hitting .215/.370/.385, the Braves may seek a more experienced upgrade, and rumors have begun they could be interested in Mike Moustakas.
Nick Cafardo may have stoked those rumors over the weekend, by writing that Moustakas could be targeted by the Braves.
“There’s a growing feeling among talent evaluators that Moustakas could become a Braves target....GM Alex Anthopoulos isn’t known to sit still.”
Moose, of course, is off to a fantastic start, hitting .294/.333/.528 with 10 home runs in 46 games. He would be very cheap for the Braves, having signed a contract that will pay him no more than $8.7 million this year with a $1 million buyout on his mutual option for next year. The Braves find themselves in contention at 28-17, and a player like Moose could be the kind of leader and big bat that helps them complete their rebuild into the post-season.
The Braves have a very deep farm system, ranked the best in baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law. Could the Royals raid it a bit to give them them Moose?
Two things should temper these rumors. First, the trade market seems to be moving away from Moustakas’ skillset. The “hottest” commodity on the market is a reliever who can miss bats. Guys that can hit home runs have become devalued, since everyone can seemingly hit it out of the park these days.
Consider that J.D. Martinez was on the market last year, and despite carrying a 1.018 OPS and 16 home runs into the July trade deadline, the Tigers got a fairly underwhelming package of prospects for him, certainly no A-listers. One of the factors hurting Martinez that will also hurt Moustakas, is impending free agency. Teams are placing a higher value on club control these days. As one of the scouts evaluating the trade put it, “The days of great returns on two-month rentals are over.”
Another factor that may inhibit a trade with the Braves is a young man named Austin Riley. Riley is considered one of the Top 100 prospects in baseball, according to Baseball America, and has already earned a promotion to AAA after destroying AA. Having just turned 21, Riley is impressing observers with a line of .308./.362/.500 with three home runs in his first 13 games in AAA. The Braves may not be all that motivated to find a third baseman knowing Riley could be a late season call up that could make an impact. Also complicating matters are what could be a flooded third base trade market with Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson possibly available.
So what could the Royals expect for Moose? For Martinez, the Tigers got infielder Dawel Lugo, ranked a “B-” prospect by John Sickels before the year, and the #4 prospect in the Diamondbacks system by MLB Pipeline. The other two players - infielders Sergio Alcantara and Jose King - were too far from the big leagues or too underwhelming to be on the radar, what many call “lottery tickets.” So while Royals fans may covet Kansas City-area native Joey Wentz, the young lefty may be off-limits in a deal for Moose. You can take a look at John Sickels’ ranking of Braves prospects or MLB Pipeline’s list of Top 30 prospects to get an idea of what they have available in their deep system.
Perhaps Dayton Moore could get more from the Braves, who have been uncompetitive for several seasons and are looking to fill their brand new stadium. They have a system deep enough that they could part with an arm like Wentz and not lose too much sleep over it. Moose is still a fairly young player, a good defender, and a good clubhouse presence.
But the Braves have a shrewd GM in Anthropolous, who took the Blue Jays from a playoff drought and took them to the brink of a pennant. He is known for being aggressive, but he is not known for just giving away prospects. The three big trades he engineered there, acquiring Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitski, and David Price, were judged at the time to be light on top-end prospects.
The Royals will have a few months to sort out rumor from reality. In the meantime, expect many more rumors surrounding Mike Moustakas, Kelvin Herrera, and possibly many other players as the team begins looking to the future.