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Eager to join Reds, Moose eyes postseason bids

@m_sheldon
December 5, 2019

CINCINNATI -- The previous two offseasons as a free agent were unsettling to say the least for Mike Moustakas as he settled for one-year contracts despite solid years. On the third time around this offseason, Moustakas got the large payday he wanted, and the Reds got exactly what they needed

CINCINNATI -- The previous two offseasons as a free agent were unsettling to say the least for Mike Moustakas as he settled for one-year contracts despite solid years. On the third time around this offseason, Moustakas got the large payday he wanted, and the Reds got exactly what they needed more than anything else for 2020: more offense.

Following the Reds and Moustakas agreeing to terms on a deal Monday, his four-year $64 million contract was formally announced on Thursday with a press conference at the Duke Energy Convention Center. It’s the largest free agent contract ever completed by Cincinnati.

“Obviously, it means a lot to me and my family to be able to support my family for the rest of our lives and the future,” Moustakas said. “But the reason I picked this team and this organization was being on the other side, playing in Milwaukee, I was able to see what these guys had and what they were bringing to the field every single day, and the love and the passion they played with. The pitching staff was incredible. The lineup was incredible.

“I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to make this team a little bit better to help get to the postseason, which is why we all play the game.”

A third baseman most of his career, Moustakas becomes the Reds’ new second baseman and will earn $12 million in 2020, $14 million in ’21, $16 million in ’22 and $18 million in ’23. There is a $20 million mutual option for 2024 with a $4 million buyout. The deal easily eclipsed the previous franchise-record, four-year, $48 million contract given to former closer Francisco Cordero ahead of the 2008 season.

Moustakas, 31, batted .254/.329/.516 last season with 35 home runs and 87 RBIs in 143 games for the Brewers. He averaged 34 homers with an .817 OPS over the past three seasons. A three-time All-Star and left-handed hitter, he languished on the open market each of the previous two winters and settled for one-year bargain contracts -- first with the Royals and then with the Brewers.

“The analytics and metrics of the game leave void the character, stature of who Mike Moustakas is. They’ve done it not once, but twice,” said Scott Boras, Moustakas' agent. “To play under that dynamic, to deal with that not once but twice in a row and yet play at that level and bring both teams he was with to the playoffs, says so much about who Mike is, not only as a player but as a teammate and athlete. In free agency, we sign contracts. But this represents something about who Mike is as a person and his character that is rarely revealed. I congratulate Mike on that.”

Moustakas spent the first six seasons of his career as a star third baseman for the Royals and played in the 2014 and ’15 World Series, including winning the championship in 2015. He was traded from Kansas City to Milwaukee on July 27, 2018. The Brewers used him at second base in 47 games this past season, including 40 starts.

“I had a great time over at second base when I was over there,” Moustakas said. “It made me feel like I was in the game a little bit more. The flexibility that this roster has, I could be playing anywhere and wherever [Reds manager David Bell] plays me, I’ll be ready to go.”

This past season, Cincinnati ranked 12th in the National League in hitting and runs scored while going 75-87. Although the Reds set a club record with 227 home runs, they scored 701 runs -- only five more than the previous year.

Moustakas is expected to be a boost to the 2020 lineup when he hits somewhere in the middle of the order around new teammates like Eugenio Suárez, Joey Votto, Nick Senzel and others.

“The guy is a winner. He’s motivated by winning,” Bell said. “There’s an edge he brings with that. We are so close, and we have other players and a team full of guys that want to make that happen. To get a guy that has done it before, who has played in the postseason, won championships and is truly motivated by not only becoming the best player he can be, but making guys around him better. He’s going to add so much to our team.”

While wearing his new No. 9 jersey -- a number he was assisted in choosing by his 3-year-old daughter -- Moustakas felt sentimental about Cincinnati as it was the site of his first All-Star Game in 2015, which took place at Great American Ball Park. For the past two seasons, he’s been a frequent visitor with the Brewers, an NL Central rival.

“Absolutely. It’s a great city. I love this city, especially for a family,” said Moustakas, who also has a 20-month-old baby and his wife expecting their third child soon. “Having that family vibe is crucial. I’m just excited to be a part of it. Coming here as a visiting player is always great. Great restaurants, the fans are great. I’m excited to be on the home side now.”

Reds general manager Nick Krall reached out to Moustakas and Boras on the first day of free agency in October, and talks began in earnest during last month’s General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Nick was locked in,” Boras said. “I could see that he really knew what Moose could mean to this team.”

“We’re doing whatever we can to make this club better, whether it’s rotation, offense or bullpen,” Krall said. “We are going to figure out the best players we can to help our team and how we can maximize the value of all 26 players on the roster.”

It’s possible that Moustakas’ record free-agent contract will only stand for a few weeks or months. The Reds were finalists to sign starting pitcher Zack Wheeler before he agreed to a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies this week. They also tried to get catcher Yasmani Grandal, before he inked a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox.

Cincinnati had a club-record $126 million payroll in 2019, and that was expected to get a significant bump for '20. With Moustakas’ salary mostly backloaded, there is room for president of baseball operations Dick Williams and Krall to keep maneuvering.

“There will be a next, we can tell you that. We can’t tell you who,” Williams said. “We do have flexibility to keep going. We will continue to do deals. I’m not going to pin down a specific number, but we can do deals this big if we find the right fit that we need to have.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.