Could Mike Moustakas return to Kansas City in 2020?
I know what you’re thinking. Nostalgic. Sentimental. Living in the past. All these terms can be muttered when dreaming of recreating a memory that once was. As fans continue to suffer through a second season of miserable baseball, it seems timely to mention that only six players remain that played in a single game for the Royals in 2015. Alex Gordon, Adalberto Mondesi, Cheslor Cuthbert, Danny Duffy, Terrance Gore, and Salvador Perez are the last pieces of that World Series bunch just four years ago. Oh how time flies.
On their way to a second consecutive 100+ loss season, more than a handful of the fan base has either tuned out or watches periodically. The starting rotation, although young, has caused for lopsided outcomes and games ending by the third inning. The offense has sputtered here in there due in part to the glaring lack of solidified production from the bottom of the order. But in hindsight, snagging another top-five draft pick and full contributing seasons from Mondesi, Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier and Nicky Lopez could have the interest level rising again for 2020. Sprinkle in a few winning streaks and possibly a winning month in August or September, and the confidence in the organization’s quest back to prominence isn’t as far off as we may believe it to be.
This offseason will come the “looking yourself in the mirror” process. To compete or not to compete? That is the question. This is all a matter of sizing up your division, your farm system, and your remaining contracts. At this point, it’s safe to acknowledge the fact that the club’s constant Achilles’ heel has been the pitching staff. And the crop of talent from the 2018 and 2019 draft is still a few years away from truly making an impact at the big league level. If an estimation were to be given, late 2020 to mid-2021 would be the gap for arms like Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic, and Daniel Lynch to crack the rotation. It may be 2022 before 2019 selections in Alec Marsh and Grant Gambrell might reach their window. So if you’re the Royals, do you make a splash in the free agency pool this coming offseason or take your whippings in another 90-100 loss year in 2020?
Look, cheap bullpen arms and low on-base guys simply are not going to mesh as well with this group as it did in 2015. The star power and production is nowhere near the same as it was back then. It makes sense to wait until your farm system is increasingly stable and your major league team has proven to be a team knocking on the door in terms of playoff contention. But if the decision is to wait putting their money into free agency until 2022, some of the foundation pieces now might no longer be suitable then. Mondesi would still be well in his prime at 26 years old. Dozier turns 31 in August of that season. Whit Merrifield would be 33. Salvador Perez would be 32, giving the front office a choice to make if they want to keep him past his current deal that expires after 2021. So is it plausible to try and truly compete with this current unit next season? This doesn’t entail that Kansas City would be in the Gerrit Cole or Madison Bumgarner sweepstakes, but there is a name with past history that could make sense.
Mike Moustakas has dealt with a ridiculous free agent market ever since his first dip into the waters at the end of the 2017 season. Hoping to strike a multi-year deal coming off a season in which he belted a Royals record 38 home runs and slashed .272/.314/.521, Moustakas turned down Kansas City’s qualifying offer of $17.4 million. Unable to strike a deal anywhere else, the Royals brought him back on a one-year $6.5 million deal in the midst of spring training. After being traded to Milwaukee at the deadline, Moose clubbed eight more home runs and drove in 33 in 54 games with the Brewers, not to mention lining a walk-off single in Game 1 of the NLCS against Colorado.
Despite his success, Moustakas was forced to settle on another one-year, $10 million deal with Milwaukee prior to the 2019 season. That money is looking more than well spent as the 30-year old has not only shown his versatility of transitioning to second base, but he has a whopping 21 home runs in mid-June. That total is good enough to rank him tied for third in all of baseball. His .598 slugging percentage is good for 9th in the league. He also has only struck out 51 times in 254 at-bats. Mike Trout has struck out 54 times in 26 less at-bats. Still early of course as the Brewers have roughly four more months of baseball, however, you have to wonder if the Royals have reasonable intrigue in a third stint in Kansas City. Here’s why it may be possible:
He could play third base again
One of the biggest persuasion pieces to use in free agent talks is pitching the idea that there team best suits that certain player’s wants and desires. Asked to leave his position he has known for his whole career for a guy who currently is hitting below the Mendoza line, it is possible Moustakas would like to return as an everyday third baseman. The easy fix to this? Slide Hunter Dozier over to first base as his 6’4 frame might fit the mold of a first baseman better long term.
Ryan O’Hearn might not be able to hold his spot
Posting a .188 average and just six home runs before his demotion to Triple-A on June 14th, the Royals may decide they need far more power and on-base numbers than the left-handed first baseman has given them this year. If the organization was asked to bump either Dozier or O’Hearn to make room for Moustakas, you would have to imagine the latter is the more likely.
His age may hurt him with other suitors, thus giving the Royals a chance
At 31 years of age come September, there’s no hiding the fact that the soon to be ten-year veteran will not be having teams lining up to give him a four- to five-year deals this offseason. However, a third consecutive year with a one-year deal is probably not going to sit well with Moustakas. Assuming the price is right, a two-year deal may be in the cards for what he is hoping for.
Kansas City is home-
Although they will not be a contender taking seriously by the media, returning to a place where you are beloved and cherished among the all the time greats sounds appealing. Moustakas grew up in the organization, went through multiple ups and downs at the plate, broke the team home run record, became an All-Star, and won two American League pennants and a World Series. This is the placed where Moose molded himself into the caliber player he is today. If both parties want a reunion, why not take it back to where it all began?
There’s always a risk when giving a multi-year deal. Sometimes it doesn’t pan out the way you hoped it would. Injuries, regression, and poor teammate performance can at times suck the talent out of a player you once foresaw in receiving. After all, Moustakas does get to see a lot of hittable pitches when you find yourself in a lineup consisting of Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, and Yasmani Grandal. Place him in a lineup like the Royals and the those dead-red fastballs suddenly start to be thrown to guys behind you. He may not be on general manager Dayton Moore’s radar, but if he is, Milwaukee could let the Moose loose again and lead him back to Kauffman Stadium.