The Cardinals have made additions to their lineup this offseason in which the team can head comfortably into the season with no glaring weaknesses. With Marcell Ozuna on board, the outfield has top five potential overall. Addition by subtraction with the trades of Piscotty, Grichuk, and Diaz will help Matheny fill out a more productive lineup card day in and day out. The concern within the position player depth is that right handed-ness is dominant. The Cardinals have three players that bat lefty pegged for starting roles in Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, and Dexter Fowler (L/R). With left-handed pop scarce on the trade market and Logan Morrison signing on with the Twins, the Cards can turn to Mike Moustakas for help. I will dive into whether or not he is a worthwhile investment.
Who is Mike Moustakas?
Moustakas was drafted second overall in the 2007 Major League Draft by the Kansas City Royals. He is a 29 year old born and raised in Los Angeles. He debuted in 2011 for the Royals and immediately took over the starting job at third base. Offensively broke out in the 2014 postseason, where he hit 5 home runs. Eventually helped the Royals get their second World Series title the following year. He has already sustained a major injury in his career (2016 ACL Tear). Scott Boras represents him in free agency.
Why sign him?
Since his 1st full season with a swing makeover (2015), Mike’s slash line from 2015-2017 is .275/.329/.496. That amounts to a OPS+ 117, good for 17% above league average offensively. At 6’0 215 lbs he is a big man, providing pure power from the left side, especially given the fact his home park has been spacious Kauffman Stadium. Be optimistic on his stat line overall, as his road OPS in 2017 was .908 compared to just .758 in Kansas. Moustakas was among the league leaders in home runs last year, with 38 homers. Only six other 3rd baseman in all of baseball last season had a higher SLG% than Moustakas’ .521 and only one of them was left handed, Joey Gallo, and not even he strictly played third base.
In the past he has consistently put up at least above average defensive numbers, with +3 DRS over 2,623.2 innings from 2014-2016, and 11.1 defensive value according to FanGraphs. He has good hands for the position, finishing nearly every season in the lowest in errors and highest in fielding percentage (.962 at 11th). His arm is strong for the position and capable of throwing out a speedy runner. Outside of a freak injury in 2016, he can be counted on to start at least 140 games a season.
This signing would push Jedd Gyorko into the super sub role, replacing Greg Garcia. Not to say he isn’t a valuable player but a career SLG% of .351 and an OPS of .723 will not suffice in a starting situation. Matheny got Garcia to appear in 133 games last season and accrued 290 plate appearances. If it worked for Garcia it’s possible for Gyorko. His ability to play shortstop in place of Paul DeJong is nearly as good as Garcia (has less range).
His defensive value slipped in 2017 and it’s very likely he will not regain much value back. The mobility and range suffered as a result of the ACL tear in his knee. As a heavy set ball player heading into his 30s, he will not regain the range he had earlier in his career, even as he recovers. Mobility coincides with his speed, where on the base paths FanGraphs has him as one of the worst with a -5.4 rating in 2017 and that’s not going to change. He goes against the athleticism movement the Cardinals want. As for a Cardinals comparison, Yadier Molina’s baserunning value was at -5.1!
As a league leader in swing percentage last year, Moustakas rarely gets on base via walk. Since being drafted he has not walked more than 43 times in a season (6.4% career walk percentage). Like many lefty-swinging hitters, he does not hit left handed pitching at all, batting a poor .241/.291/.396. If the Cardinals were to sign Moustakas to a deal, they would lose out on one of their draft picks (42nd overall) with his attachment to a qualifying offer. This hurts considering the Cardinals lost their first three picks in 2017.
Moustakas’ market, compared to the start of the offseason when he was flush with interested teams, has dried up. The Angels turned to Zack Cozart, the Mets signed Todd Frazier, the Giants traded for Evan Longoria, and the Royals seemingly moved on and are committing to rebuild mode. At least twenty five of the teams in baseball are out on him. The Braves are looking for a bridge to prospect Austin Riley. The Yankees were rumored to be interested but acquired Brandon Drury.
I think a Mike Moustakas deal is sensible for the Cardinals. You are not going to get high average and on base stats from him. That is not the type of hitter he is. What he does do is improve the Cards chances to contend here and now in 2018. I wouldn’t go any further than a one year deal as it blocks Donaldson/Machado. If you want a Josh Donaldson trade deadline acquisition then this isn’t the deal for you. Or if you believe Gyorko is a capable starter and Garcia is a fine utility player then I understand. But he does provide proven depth and changes the outlook on the NL Central race entirely.