PHOENIX -- It was just a day earlier when Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw said he would welcome Mike Moustakas back to the Brewers with open arms, even though it could cost Shaw his primary position.
Shaw got his wish on Sunday when Moustakas agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract to return to the Brewers that includes a mutual option for 2020. The Brewers announced the deal on Tuesday.
The agreement drives higher a Brewers payroll that already was set to top $120 million and break a franchise record.
Just like their one-year, $18.25 million pact with switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal in January, the Brewers were willing to stretch the budget for a solid bat like Moustakas if the commitment was only for one year. The move shores up second base with a combination of Moustakas or Shaw, who has belted 63 home runs in his two seasons in Milwaukee. And since mutual options are very rarely exercised by both sides, it essentially provides a bridge to middle-infield prospectsMauricio Dubon and Keston Hiura. They are ticketed to start this season as tandem at shortstop and second base at Triple-A San Antonio.
After spending his entire career with the Royals, Moustakas slashed .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs and a career-high 95 RBIs last season between Kansas City and Milwaukee. The Brewers traded for him in late July and shifted Shaw to second base, then got hot down the stretch and won the National League Central. Moustakas hit .256 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 218 plate appearances for Milwaukee in the regular season. He went 8-for-40 (.200) in the postseason including a walk-off single in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, helping to send Milwaukee to a sweep of the Rockies.
"Obviously, he was a great addition to this team last year in the second half after the [Trade Deadline]," said Christian Yelich, who spent much of the winter working alongside Moustakas and Ryan Braun to raise funds for Californians affected by wildfires. "A great player, a great clubhouse guy, and he definitely helped us on the field."
With Moustakas, the Brewers will be able to post a lineup against a right-handed starter featuring as many as six left-handed bats for the eight position-player spots: reigning NL MVP Yelich, Shaw, Grandal, Moustakas, first baseman Eric Thames and outfielder Ben Gamel, who is the primary backup to Braun in left field and figures to see significant at-bats as the Brewers try to keep Braun healthy and productive.
Milwaukee will have some flexibility with the infield alignment since Moustakas expressed willingness to try second base after the trade. That never materialized, but the idea could be revisited if the Brewers prefer to keep Shaw entrenched at third.
Either way, the signing provided a significant offensive upgrade at second base. Before Moustakas' return, the Brewers were poised to platoon Cory Spangenberg with either Hernán Pérez or Tyler Saladino. Spangenberg is another left-handed hitter who will be used against righties.
Yelich, Shaw and Braun stayed in close contact with Moustakas throughout the offseason as he navigated a second straight year of free agency. After the 2017 season, Moustakas was unable to secure the sort of multiyear contract he was hoping for, so he signed back with the Royals for one year plus with a mutual option.
Now, with his free agency stalled again, he did the same with the Brewers.
"Moose is a great guy, and if he came back here I would welcome him with open arms," Shaw said Saturday. "I also think that if he came back here, I don't think that would be the deal that he was looking for going into the offseason."
Moustakas' agreement came on the eve of Brewers position players formally reporting to camp. The first full-squad workout at American Family Fields of Phoenix is Tuesday.