Potential 2018 Brave: 3B Mike Moustakas

This is the first installment of potential offseason additions for the Atlanta Braves. We will take a look at players that could be available in the free agency market, as well as any potential trade options. I hope you guys enjoy.

Mike Moustakas, 3B

Current team: Kansas City Royals

Current contract: Final year of two-year contract extension signed with Royals in 2016 ($8.7M salary in 2017 season).

Current 2017 Stats: .274/.305/.551 with 31 HR in 100 games. 118 wRC+

2018 Age: 29

The player: Moustakas is in his seventh season with Royals after bursting onto the scene in 2011 as the Royals’ #3 prospect. The left-handed hitting third baseman struggled with consistency through his first 4 seasons, but finally turned the corner at age 26 in 2015. Since the 2015 season, Moustakas has hit .276/.327/.503 while playing a solid third base. He would provide a power bat to join Freddie Freeman in the middle of Atlanta’s order. The biggest weaknesses for Moustakas are his walk rate (6.3% over his career), as well as his significant splits (only a .239/.288/.396 slash line vs LHP).

Contract comparisons:

2017- Justin Turner re-signed with the Dodgers for 4 years and $64M ($16M per year).

2015- Pablo Sandoval signed with the Red Sox 5 years and $95M ($19M per year) and Chase Headley signed with the Yankees for 4 years and $52M ($13M per year).

Both Turner and Headley were a couple years older than Moustakas when they hit the free agency, but Sandoval was nearly the same age. Moustakas could very well land a contract in the 4 to 5 year range worth somewhere between $15-20M a year. 

Why it would work: Per Fangraphs, the Braves have finished 20th or worse in third base fWAR in 4 of the 5 seasons since Chipper Jones retired. The lone outlier is the 2013 season, in which Chris Johnson nearly won the NL batting title en route to a career best 2.5 fWAR. The position has been full if inconsistencies and below average performances in recent years, and 2017 has been no different. The Braves briefly toyed with the idea of Freddie Freeman at third, but that experiment only lasted a few weeks. Johan Camargo and (most recently) Brandon Phillips have played well this year, but Camargo has been moved to shortstop full-time and Phillips will be a free agent after 2017. Gwinnett 3B Rio Ruiz was once a highly regarded prospect brought in through the Evan Gattis trade, but Ruiz has struggled in his brief MLB career and his 2017 AAA line is currently at .251/.321/.447.

Why it won’t work: Moustakas is clearly the top third baseman in the 2017-2018 free agent class. Teams such as the Yankees, Mets, Angels and Giants will also be in the mix for Moustakas’ signature. All four of those teams have higher payrolls than the Braves, and don’t rule out the Royals trying to bring back a fan favorite. Even though the Braves will officially rid themselves of contracts like Bartolo Colon, current Twin Yankee Jaime Garcia, and possibly parts of Matt Kemp and/or Nick Markakis’ contracts, they will have to be very selective on how they spend in the offseason. While third base is definitely a high priority, the Braves could also spend big money on starting pitching, or possibly a corner outfielder if Kemp or Markakis is traded.

Conclusion: Mike Moustakas would be a great fit in Atlanta. The Braves will definitely be in play for his services, but it will ultimately come down to whether or not they would rather spend big on a starting pitcher or an outfielder. The Braves will definitely have the money to make a big splash signing, but they also have the prospects to pursue a big name in a trade. Which route will they choose for third base?

 

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