We are about six weeks from the July trade deadline, and you can expect a myriad of rumors surrounding third baseman Mike Moustakas. Moose has cooled down lately, but is still hitting .259/.313/.475, with 13 home runs, which is more than all but two third basemen in baseball.
Most observers around baseball expect Mike Moustakas to be traded, but Dayton Moore pumped the brakes on those expectations just a bit in recent comments to the Star last week.
“We’re not gonna move players just to move players and just because everybody thinks we ought to clean house,” Moore told The Star. “We have to get value in return or it simply makes zero sense to do that.
It makes sense that Dayton Moore has to publicly say this. These words are meant for three audiences - first, to the team, which is still trying to win games as best they can. Second, Dayton wants to let fans know he is not just giving up on the season, and is working hard to make the best deal possible. And third, he has to let other teams know he is not going to move Moustakas for anything, to give himself some leverage.
But while the Royals cannot say it publicly, the reality is they absolutely need to trade Mike Moustakas for what they can get.
There are only so many opportunities for teams to add talent to the organization. One of those opportunities was last week when the Royals selected 43 players in the June amateur draft, as Sam Mellinger called it, a first step in the rebuild. That would have been 44 players had the Royals allowed Mike Moustakas to sign with anyone else - had he signed any kind of Major League contract before the draft, the Royals could have gotten a pick at the end of the second round as compensation for him.
Because the Royals passed on that opportunity in order to bring Moose back, it makes it even more imperative they get something for him this July. There is no backup plan this time. If Moose stays in a Royals uniform and leaves this winter, the Royals cannot make him another Qualifying Offer under the terms of the new labor agreement.
Some might argue there is value in winning down the stretch, to set a good example for the younger players. But there are precious few young players on this roster. Jorge Soler probably already learned how to win from being on very good Cubs teams. And how many games did the Royals lose in Eric Hosmer’s first season? 91. His second? 90. Somehow he was able to learn to become a winner and a champion. As did the Astros, who lost 100+ games in each of Jose Altuve’s first three Major League seasons.
Others may argue the Royals need to keep Moustakas for the fans. Dayton Moore certainly argues this to Rustin Dodd at The Athletic.
“Our fans come to the ballpark for a lot of different reasons,” Moore said. “One of them is because they like watching certain players play … and we are not going to move some of those popular players in the eyes of our fans just to do a deal. There has to be value in return.”
Even the venerated Bill James agrees.
I support Dayton's logic. It is foolish to convince yourself that you HAVE to trade a player. If you're not getting full value in return, it is inconsiderate to the fans to make a trade just because you don't value a win this season.— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) June 14, 2018
I love watching Moose, but I doubt fans are coming out to see a team 30 games under .500 just because he is in the lineup. I think most fans understand where we are at in the process, and are willing to be patient, at least initially, with what will likely be a multi-year rebuild.
I understand Bill’s point, but being stubborn and demanding full value could result in Dayton Moore getting nothing. Would you rather get 3/4th of Moose’s value on the trade market, or demand full value, risking the chance you get nothing? Wouldn’t it be more considerate to the fans to do what is in the best interest of the franchise long-term?
Some may want Moustakas here long-term. That would still be possible even if the Royals move him! The Royals could simply trade him now and sign him to a long-term deal when he’s a free agent this winter. But they still need to take advantage of the opportunity to get talent in return for his services.
Dayton has insisted he will be ”open minded to different things”, and I would expect him to get a deal done with Moustakas before July is over. The Braves and Mets could both use a corner infielder, and perhaps the Angels, Red Sox, and Phillies could be interested as well.
We should also be aware of the situation here. The Royals don’t much leverage. Their best hope is getting two teams in a bidding war, and hoping that teams still value home runs the way they used to. The return for two months of a slugger ain’t what it used to be. But Dayton Moore might have to take what he can get.