Royals agree to a deal with free-agent slugger Brandon Moss

Brandon Moss spent the last two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .225 with a .300 on-base percentage and 28 homers in 128 games in 2016.
Brandon Moss spent the last two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .225 with a .300 on-base percentage and 28 homers in 128 games in 2016. File photo

The Royals have agreed to terms on a two-year, $12 million contract with slugger Brandon Moss, acquiring a veteran piece who could slot into the club’s designated-hitter role.

The deal is expected to become official once Moss, 33, completes a physical later this week, a source with knowledge of the signing confirmed to the Star on Sunday. The multiyear deal is expected to be back-loaded, with Moss set to make somewhere between $3 and $4 million in 2017. The contract agreement was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

The signing comes one week after the tragic death of right-hander pitcher Yordano Ventura. But the Royals had been discussing a deal with Moss for weeks, a source close to the negotiations said.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore declined to comment Sunday afternoon, citing club policy on contracts that have yet to become official.

Moss, who has primarily played outfield and first base in his career, spent the last two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, batting .225 with a .300 on-base percentage and 28 homers in 128 games in 2016. But his final numbers were marred by a sluggish September.

As he approached free agency, Moss was hitting .261 with a .333 on-base percentage through the end of August. But a dreadful stretch over the season’s final four weeks torpedoed his overall production and limited the market for his services this winter.

The Royals are placing a modest bet on Moss’ track record of power and on-base skills. He will likely see most of his at-bats as the designated hitter, projecting as either a full-time replacement for Kendrys Morales or a left-handed power option in a DH rotation. He also carries a reputation as a strong and positive clubhouse presence.

Royals officials have spent much of the offseason suggesting that third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert could see time in a DH rotation after losing his starting spot back to Mike Moustakas, who is returning from a season-ending knee injury. Yet the presence of Moss could complicate Cuthbert’s role.

The Royals have mulled the idea of using Cuthbert at second base. But a lack of defensive range could make that idea a nonstarter. Cuthbert is also out of options and would have to clear waivers to be sent to Class AAA Omaha, which means he will need to be kept on the 25-man roster to avoid being poached by another club.

For now, the Royals’ competition at second base will likely come down to Whit Merrifield, Raul Mondesi and Christian Colon.

It’s also possible that Moss may not be a full-time DH. The Royals have said they would like to use the spot to keep players such as Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez fresh and healthy. In addition, right fielder Jorge Soler could log games at DH, though club officials remain optimistic about his defensive potential despite mediocre defensive numbers during his time with the Chicago Cubs.

Whatever the scope of his role, the addition of Moss offers another element to a Royals lineup reshaped by the trade for Soler and reinforced by the return of a healthy Moustakas and Cain.

In 10 major-league seasons, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Moss has spent time with Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Oakland, Cleveland and St. Louis. After bouncing around the league for most of his early 20s, he found a home in Oakland in 2012, piecing together the best three-year stretch of his career, including an All-Star appearance in 2014.

In three seasons with the A’s, Moss hit .254 with a .340 on-base percentage while blasting 76 homers. He famously clubbed two mammoth shots against the Royals in the 2014 Wild Card Game at Kauffman Stadium.

After being traded to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for second baseman Joey Wendle following the 2014 season, Moss was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals before the 2015 trade deadline. He spent 1  1/2 seasons in St. Louis before becoming a free agent this offseason. The Cardinals declined to extend a qualifying offer in early November.

For his career, Moss is a .241 hitter with .319 on-base percentage and 138 homers. Against right-handed pitching, he has batted .240 with a .319 on-base percentage and 119 home runs.

The Royals’ 40-man roster had an opening after the tragic death of Ventura last weekend in the Dominican Republic. After the signing of Moss, the Royals can now turn their attention to adding depth to their starting rotation and bullpen.

Kansas City Royals celebrate their 9-8 win over the Oakland Athletics in 12 innings at Kauffman Stadium in 2014.