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I Feel Bad For Mike Moustakas And So Should You

Moose has been trying to get loose for years now. While other players are basking in the glory of free agency, players like Moustakas are forced to gamble.

Mike Moustakas Takes BP by Arturo Pardavila III is licensed under CC 2.0

I Feel Bad For Mike Moustakas And So Should You


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Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The offseason has yet again been filled with waiting for players to sign contracts, even though Spring Training games are set to begin at the end of the week. Manny Machado just signed a 10-year, $300 million dollar deal with the Padres. However with big names like Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, and of course, Bryce Harper, yet to sign their deals, other players are left out of the media circus that has become the late innings of the Hot Stove.

One of those such players is Mike Moustakas.

Mike Moustakas has been a solid third baseman his entire career, both in Kansas City and more recently in Milwaukee. After grinding out innings for Royals teams that barely resembled ballclubs, Moose and Kansas City’s hardships paid off in 2014, when they went on their improbable and unbelievable run to the World Series.

Of course, as we now know, the San Francisco Madison Bumgarner’s took the Royals to seven games and then completed their 3rd and final installment of “Even Year Bulls**t.” But that didn’t stop Moose from keeping his eyes on the prize. No way. Mike Moustakas was ready to put his best foot forward and prove his worth to the Royals and the AL Central.

In 2015, Moustakas would post a .284/.348/.470 slash, an .817 OPS, and a 4.4 WAR. Tallying 156 hits, Moose had 34 doubles, 22 home runs, and knocked in 82 runs for the Royals on the way to their first AL Central divisional crown since 1985. Coming in behind Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas was the second best player on the Royals that year, so why doesn’t it feel like that?

A couple of reasons.

Mike Moustakas plays third base and isn’t all that fast. When you look at Cain and Moustakas‘ numbers side by side, you can see that they had very similar seasons. The only difference being Cain’s average was 33 points higher, and he stole 27 more bases. Oh, there’s also his glove. Cain’s 2015 boasted a dWAR, or Defensive Wins Against Replacement, of 2.3, compared to Moose’s 0.8.

There’s also, everyone else.

Moustakas tends to blend into the background of the 2015 Royals. When you think of the Royals 2015 postseason run, who’s the first person to come into your head? Is it Alcides Escobar and his leadoff Inside-the-Park home run off Matt Harvey? Is it Lorenzo Cain stealing a base and getting us all free tacos? Perhaps it’s Alex Gordon and his game 1 ninth inning bomb off Jeurys Familia to tie the game and send it to extras? Or even Salvador Perez and his ground out to score Eric Hosmer in the ninth inning of Game 5? Or even more to that point, is it Eric Hosmer doing anything?

The point is, it’s not Moustakas, despite the fact that his 8th inning RBI Single in Game 4 put the Royals in a position to close out the series in Game 5.

But you don’t remember that, do you?

After Moose got his ring, things turned sour. A month and a half into the 2016 season, Moose would collide with teammate Alex Gordon as they attempted to snag a ball in foul territory, tearing his ACL and ending his season.

In 2017, Moose came back ready to play, after all, this was his contract year. Putting up his traditionally solid numbers, Moose decided to show off his bat a little more than usual.

In the first half of season, Moustakas went yard 25 times, and then proceeded to launch 13 more dongs in the second half for a grand total of 38, a new single-season record for the Royals. At the end of the season, Moose was 7th in the AL in home runs. While that might not seem like a big feat, consider the names he was surrounded with. When you’re being compared to Nelson Cruz, Khris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion, you’re pretty much nailing it.

With his solid 2017 in hand, Mike Moustakas left the infield at Kauffman Stadium alongside Hosmer, Cain, and Escobar. This felt like goodbye. Moose was moving on. So when the Royals offered him a qualifying offer worth $17.4 million dollars for one year, Moose opted to test free agency, turning down the deal and heading for open waters.

This is where I start feeling bad for Moose.

So with $17.4 million now off the table, Moose is looking for suitors, but no one shows up. Instead, other third basemen, like Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart sign deals around $10 million a year. Other roster spots fill up when Evan Longoria is sent to the Giants or Gerrit Cole lands in Houston for Colin Moran.

Moustakas fell victim to a tough market at a tough position, where lots of young players looking for playing time and older veterans looking for deals are out there. It’s a tough pill to swallow, and boy, did Moose have to swallow a big amount of pride.

After holding out for a better deal, Moustakas returned to Kansas City, signing a one-year, $5.5 million dollar deal. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s a $11.9 million dollar loss in just 5 months. The Royals signed him for a less than a third of the amount they originally offered. Adding insult to injury, Eric Hosmer signed a mammoth 8-year/$144 million dollar deal with the San Diego Padres, and Lorenzo Cain inked a 5-year/$80 million dollar deal with the Brewers.

At this point, the only thing left for Moose to do was to play well enough to warrant a trade to a contender. And guess what? He did exactly that.

In his 98 games with the Royals, Moose smacked 21 doubles, 20 home runs, and knocked in 64 runs. After failing to get out of Kansas City, Moose was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for reliever Jorge Lopez and outfielder Brett Phillips.

The Moose was finally loose.

For the surging Brew Crew, Moose was a breath of fresh air. After landing Moustakas, the Brewers went 33-20, including an 11-2 run to end the season. Coming off their hot September, the Brewers capped off 2018 with a win over the Cubs in Game 163 to take the NL Central title for the first time since 2011.

While Moustakas‌ and the Brewers didn’t make it to the World Series, it was evident was the third baseman’s ability to change a team’s lineup, and clubhouse. Bringing in a young veteran, who’s been to the World Series before and experienced both sides of the outcome, is invaluable.

So surely, Moustakas would get the longer deal he went looking for in 2017, right? What more can he do to prove his worth?

Well, the Brewers declined his $15 million dollar option after last season. Then free agency came and went, once again with no takers, and Moustakas was forced to sign a one-year deal with the Brewers for $10 million. After making $8.7 million in 2018, and this $10 million in 2019, Mike Moustakas will have made just over his original qualifying offer from Kansas City.

Woof.

I don’t feel bad for guys like Justin Verlander who are calling collusion. And I don’t feel bad for Harper and Keuchel, who aren’t getting the mega deals they think they’ve earned.

I feel bad for guys like Mike Moustakas, who are forced to gamble, despite having proving their worth time and time again.

If the system is broken, guys like Harper and Keuchel aren’t getting hurt by losing $50 million over 2 years. It’s the guys like Moustakas who are going to get crushed.

That’s a problem, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

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