By now his friends are all working, the ones he struggled and laughed with, failed and won with. Many of them are here, at Royals camp, where Mike Moustakas spent his last 10 springs. They miss him.
"He'll always be part of what we did," general manager Dayton Moore said.
Others are in new places. Eric Hosmer is with the Padres, Lorenzo Cain with the Brewers, Jason Vargas with the Mets. This is how it goes, the rhythm of baseball, the story of young players succeeding in the big leagues and then signing for generational wealth in free agency.
This is how it was supposed to go for Moustakas, too. He did everything right. Learned the game. Respected his teammates. Accepted responsibility. When he was failing, he took his demotion like a man, came back up and helped win the World Series. When it was time for his contract year, he hit more home runs than any player in Royals history.
He's 29. Not young anymore, but also not yet old. In a normal year, one evaluator guessed, that would be good for a contract worth four years and $65 million or so. A rival executive figured five years and $75 million would be possible. When the offseason started, the Royals planned on receiving draft compensation tied to a contract worth at least $50 million.
Spring training started three weeks ago. The Royals just played their ninth game. Moustakas is 360 miles west, taking grounders and swings in a simulated spring training at the Newport Beach facility of agent Scott Boras, who is not ruling out the possibility of Moustakas sitting out regular-season games and re-entering the market next winter.
"It's like the eye of a hurricane," said Boras, who's represented Moustakas since he was drafted 11 years ago. "You're surrounded by talent, and it's quiet inside."
Much has been made of baseball's unusual offseason. Hosmer and J.D. Martinez are among those who signed big contracts after camps opened, the types of deals that have typically been done in December. Jake Arrieta, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Holland are among the stars who remain unsigned.
Scouts whisper about some players who in most years would sign for millions now being virtually forced into retirement by a lack of interest. But in many ways, Moustakas has become the personification of the cold market.
Baseball is a small world. People talk. Texts bounce back and forth, and it often isn't long before Moustakas' name comes up.
You hear anything? What's going on?
The topic can keep Boras on the phone for nearly an hour, mostly about how the CBA and competitive balance tax have had unintended consequences. He counts 12 or so teams that effectively shut off spending — the A's and Rays and Pirates and others at the bottom that aren't spending revenues, and the Dodgers and Yankees at the top that want to stay under the luxury tax.
"(Commissioner) Rob Manfred said this is cyclical," Boras said. "But cyclical, to me, is when there's not enough good players, so you can't compete, so I have to play my young players and I'm at the bottom of the league. That's cyclical. But when you have great players in the market, and you are not putting them on your teams and — this is important — you have record revenues to go with it, that is not cyclical.
"That is 1993."
Boras is referencing the environment ahead of the last work stoppage. His frustration centers around free agents being "weighed down" by increasing draft pick compensation, which diminishes the market as teams — this is his view — overvalue those picks.
He is presented with the counterargument. Teams are valuing players differently. He doesn't have to like it, but at some point maybe he has to accept it, at least for now.
"This is not about valuing players," he said. "This is about non-competitiveness. They value players the same. They want them. They're simply choosing to be non-competitive."
This is where Moustakas is the perfect example of the market. He's a two-time All-Star, a key member of a World Series champion, and in most years teams would look at Kauffman Stadium's dimensions and his 24 homers on the road and believe he could hit 45 or more homers while playing above average defense at a difficult position.
Now, many are opting to play cheaper and younger players. The Angels made sense for Moustakas, but signed Zack Cozart. The Giants made sense, but traded for Evan Longoria. The Yankees made a lot of sense, but they traded for Brandon Drury.
All of those moves were at least partly influenced by the CBA, either with draft pick compensation or the luxury tax.
"The system wasn't designed for non-competitiveness," Boras said. "The system was designed for the runaway train, for the Yankees, so that if you want to spend so much more than everybody else you need to pay in to help the other teams, too.
"But what it's turned out to be is a barrier. Teams say, 'Well, we can't pay that luxury tax,' but nobody says, 'Wait a minute, aren't you making $300 million more than when this was put in?'"
Some of this is philosophical, and much of it is a debate that is separate from whether Moustakas will be on a roster opening day.
"The teams are coming, and Moose is going to be playing baseball," Boras said. "But I don't control time, and I don't control competitiveness. The question is when do those teams want to commit to winning, and of course I think he'll be playing, yes."
Boras has done this dance before. Four years ago, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew both remained unsigned into June. Kyle Lohse wanted until late March in 2013 to sign. Morales and Lohse ended up making as much or more than most expected. Drew, who was 31 when he went unsigned, made less.
So, Boras knows this route. He designed the playbook, and volunteered an alternative outcome. If the offers don't come, Moustakas could wait until the draft pick compensation drops after the June draft, perhaps sign a deal for the rest of the 2018 season, and then take another spin with free agency.
Manny Machado — who is moving from third to shortstop this year — and Josh Donaldson will be free agents, so Moustakas would at best be the No. 2 third baseman on the market.
But the demand side could be better, too. The biggest spenders will be back in the market after staying under the luxury tax threshold for a year, and unlike Machado and Donaldson, signing Moustakas would no longer mean giving up a draft pick.
"Watch what happens," Boras said. "This player has no picks attached to him. It goes away, because they can only put it on him once. So now it's a totally different world for Moose."
If that's the way it goes, Moustakas will really be the embodiment of a market few saw coming.