There is an old cliche in free agency that timing dictates everything. The latest case in point: Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Moustakas, 29, has reached the open market after posting career highs with 38 homers and an .835 OPS in 2017. In his last two healthy seasons, he has averaged 30 homers and 29 doubles and made two All-Star appearances.
He is also one of nine Royals who became free agents earlier this month, a list that includes first baseman Eric Hosmer and center fielder Lorenzo Cain. All three are among the most coveted players on the market this winter.
Kansas City is expected to be active in retaining its homegrown players. Yet the process depends on a set of unknowns: Which teams will be interested in Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain? What will their markets look like? Will the price, as it did for Alex Gordon two years ago, fall back into the Royals’ neighborhood?
“You just never really know,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.
The market is expected to heat up next week when officials from all 30 teams convene in Orlando, Fla., for the annual general managers meetings. The Star is looking at which teams might be interested in Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain. Earlier this week, we looked at possible destinations for Hosmer — and for Cain. Now let’s look at which teams might be a fit for Moustakas.
Los Angeles Angels: The Dodgers have a franchise third baseman in Justin Turner. Yet there is still a possible homecoming destination for Moustakas in Southern California. The Angels have potential holes at both corner infield positions, though Luis Valbuena could be positioned to play one of those two spots. Moustakas would offer another power bat to a franchise that is trying to maximize Mike Trout’s prime years and return to the playoffs. The Angels spent some money to extend outfielder Justin Upton earlier this month, yet there will likely be enough left for another big acquisition.
New York Yankees: Todd Frazier is a free agent after being acquired before the trade deadline last summer. Chase Headley is still under contract for one more season at $13 million. Moustakas would likely be an upgrade over both. After hitting 38 homers while playing half his games at Kauffman Stadium, it’s reasonable to believe that Moustakas could approach 45 homers while taking aim at the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. But as we mentioned with Hosmer, the Yankees will be trying to get under the $197 million luxury tax this offseason.
New York Mets: The Mets could be searching for a long-term successor to David Wright, a franchise cornerstone whose career has been crippled by injuries in recent years.
San Francisco Giants: After a disappointing season in 2017, the Giants are still seeking to contend with their current core of players. They finished last in the majors in home runs last season with 128. Part of that, of course, can be attributed to their ballpark. But Moustakas would offer a missing element of power. There’s a hole at third base, too.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves have a loaded farm system and some payroll flexibility. At some point, they will spend money. But prospect Austin Riley, who finished last season at Class AA, could be a long-term solution at third base.
The Royals: For now, the Royals appear to be prioritizing Hosmer in free agency. That, of course, could change if the markets for each player change. But it appears likely Moustakas could have a handful of aggressive suitors. Kansas City has some internal replacements at third base in Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier. Neither is likely to hit more than 35 homers next season. But there is a ready backup plan.