PHOENIX -- Brewers fans have been Moose hunting, wondering when veteran third baseman Mike Moustakas will finally escape free agency and find a home. His teammates during the second half of last season are wondering, too.
Like Travis Shaw, who reported to camp Saturday as the Brewers' third baseman. He's open to that designation being temporary, since Shaw moved to second base last season when Milwaukee acquired Moustakas for the stretch run. He would make that switch again.
"I've talked to Moose. I talked to him yesterday, actually," said Shaw. "I've talked to him a few times this offseason, and it's unfortunate he's going through [a prolonged job hunt] again. I just hope he lands somewhere and gets what he deserves."
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Moustakas found himself in the same situation last year, despite coming off a career-high 38-homer, .835 OPS output in 2017 with the Royals that represented a career year. Unable to find the sort of contract he was hoping for on the open market, he signed back with Kansas City on a one-year pact with a mutual option and aimed to try again a year later.
A year later, after 28 home runs and a career-best 95 RBIs in a regular season split between the Royals and Brewers, Moustakas is in a similar spot. It does not help that the top infielder on the market, Manny Machado, also remains unsigned.
"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.
"We'll see how it plays out. I've heard the rumors like you guys have about us being connected to him, but I feel like there are some other teams, as well. If it works out, we would love to have him. Obviously, he only makes us better. We'll find out here shortly."
Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns has not closed the door on signing additional players before Opening Day, but he has avoided talking specifically about Moustakas. The "default" plan at the moment is to play Shaw at third and split second-base duties between left-handed hitter Cory Spangenberg and right-handed hitters Hernán Pérez and/or Tyler Saladino while two premium middle-infield prospects, Mauricio Dubon and No. 1 Brewers prospect Keston Hiura, finish their Minor League development.
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But just because Spring Training has begun does not mean that the acquisition season is over. The Brewers could still trade for an infielder or sign one of the remaining free agents, a list that includes the likes of Moustakas and versatile veterans Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison. Any signing would probably have to be a short-term deal.
"We're always talking. I'm sure we'll continue to talk," Stearns said before camp opened. "The offseason gets later and later. We'll continue to explore options."
Moustakas' old teammates will continue to hope for the best.
"Moose is a great guy, and if he came back here, I would welcome him with open arms," Shaw said. "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. I mean, I'm wishing that he gets what he deserves."
The situation makes Shaw think about his own contractual future. He has two years of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency after the 2021 season.
That is, unless Shaw signs an extension first. There has been a recent run of those in MLB, including four-year deals for the Phillies' Aaron Nola and Yankees' Luis Severino just this week, and five-year extensions for the Twins' Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco on Friday.
"You can't blame guys for doing it," Shaw said. "Nola is worth more than what he signed for, but I can't blame him. I would probably take the same thing. Guys are starting to grab some money now while they can, and nobody can fault them. People are saying they're taking 'team-friendly' deals, but are they really team-friendly deals when they're getting to free agency and they're not even getting that?"
The Brewers and Shaw, who hit 63 home runs over his first two seasons in Milwaukee, have not had any talks so far, the player said.
"I'm open for discussions. I like it here," Shaw said. "I've had some success here. We had a good group of guys here and I've enjoyed it. I would like to be here long-term."