Rockies add veteran slugger Moustakas

Moose provides Rox insurance if Montero isn't ready for hot corner

March 5th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies signed veteran designated hitter-corner infielder to a Minor League contract on Sunday as an option at third base if is not fully ready to step into the position.

Second baseman Brendan Rodgers will have surgery to repair a dislocated and damaged left shoulder and could miss the entire season. The club’s immediate reaction was to move third baseman Ryan McMahon to second, where he played earlier in his career.

Montero, 24, who batted .233 with six home runs in a 53-game debut last year, has plenty of power potential but is working on his defense. That’s where the 34-year-old Moustakas, who was released by the Reds in January with one year left on his four-year, $64 million contract, gets a nothing-to-lose opportunity.

In 12 seasons with the Royals, Brewers and Reds, Moustakas appeared in three All-Star Games and owns a career .247/.308/.434 slash line with six seasons of 20 or more homers -- including 38 in 2017 with the Royals and 35 in 2019 with the Brewers. He struggled with the Reds -- recording a .683 OPS and 21 homers in 184 games over three seasons -- while dealing with numerous injuries, mostly to his lower body. A left calf strain marred last season and eventually cost him the final six weeks. He dealt with a right heel contusion in ’21 and a left quadriceps strain in '20.

Moustakas said he spent the early part of the offseason taking time to rehab his lower body but feels healthy for this opportunity. Moustakas played some second base with the Reds, but he and club officials said on Sunday that second will not be in play with the Rockies.

“You’ve got to wait it out -- and I finally got the opportunity and jumped all over it,” Moustakas said. “So it’s great to be here. I’m excited the Rockies gave me this opportunity. I’m fired up.”

General manager Bill Schmidt said he sees Moustakas as being lighter and healthier than he was during his time with the Reds, so he will have a shot to extend his career.

Montero's challenge
The right-handed-hitting Montero has arrived with more patience offensively, which means he has a chance of having the power he has shown in the Minors play in the Majors. Since arriving as part of the 2021 trade that sent third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, Montero has 43 home runs and 140 RBIs in 185 games with the Rockies at the Double-A and Triple-A level.

“I like some of the adjustments he’s made with his swing -- it’s not so steep, in my opinion,” Schmidt said. “Defensively, his footwork needs to take the next step. The hands are good, the arms are good.”

Montero has slightly narrowed his defensive stance in hopes of improving his first-step quickness, as detailed in Saturday’s Rockies Beat Report video.

That’s where Moustakas' signing comes in. Also, left-handed hitting Nolan Jones, who debuted last year with the Guardians (.244, 2 HR, 13 RBIs) and has some power potential, mostly played third in his Minor League career and is receiving looks at corner infield and outfield positions. Like Montero, Jones has a Minor League option.

“That’s what we’ve tried to do the whole time here, have some competition for guys so they’re not coming into camp like, ‘OK, he’s got this job,’” Schmidt said. “You’ve got to earn some jobs. And Opening Day is just a point in time. Some guys might need to go out [to the Minors] for a while. Maybe they don’t get off to a good start, but they pick it up for a while.”

Back in line
In Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Cubs, lefty starter went three innings and struck out three, yielding one run on three hits and a walk. After testing his new two-seam sinker in a messy first Cactus League performance against the Rangers on Tuesday, Gomber used the pitch just once on Sunday. There was a reason.

“I was trying to recreate the delivery -- the director got off track,” said Gomber, who said video study revealed the same issue he had last year -- inability to work inside against right-handed hitters. “When I get on that line, everything kind of moves off that and I’m able to move the ball around to both sides.”

His best pitch was an inside fastball that Dansby Swanson hit hard, but right to Montero at third to start a double play in the third inning.

• Key free-agent righty pitcher left after facing six batters when he experienced right knee soreness in the fifth inning.

said earlier in the spring he didn’t want to “waste” home runs in Spring Training, but he parked his third Sunday -- a 425-footer to left off Drew Smyly. knocked his first homer of the spring, a 425-foot shot to right-center also off Smyly.