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Moose reportedly joins Reds on 4-year deal

December 2, 2019

Mike Moustakas was as powerful as ever in 2019, bashing 35 home runs and driving in 87 while helping the Brewers reach the postseason for the second consecutive year. Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 31-year-old, who is a free agent for the third

Mike Moustakas was as powerful as ever in 2019, bashing 35 home runs and driving in 87 while helping the Brewers reach the postseason for the second consecutive year.

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 31-year-old, who is a free agent for the third straight offseason.

Moustakas reportedly agrees to four-year deal with Reds

Dec. 2: Moustakas is staying in the National League Central but jumping from the Brewers to the Reds, as he has agreed to a four-year deal with Cincinnati, a source told MLB.com. With Eugenio Suarez entrenched at third base, Moustakas is expected to play second for the Reds.

This was Moustakas' third try at free agency after he signed a one-year deal in each of the past two offseasons.

Could Moustakas make sense for the Indians?

Nov. 30: The Indians need infield help with Jason Kipnis now a free agent, and Mike Moustakas could make sense, writes Cleveland.com's Paul Hoynes. He could certainly help the team's offense, and showed in 2019 with the Brewers that he can play second base if needed -- though he could also end up at his natural position of third base, given José Ramírez's versatility, were he to end up in Cleveland. Hoynes notes that Moustakas turned down an $11 million mutual option, which might put him out of the Indians' price range, but further qualifies that it's the third straight year Moustakas has been a free agent, and he's taken one-year deals in each of the prior two. A one-year deal is more attainable in any price range, and Hoynes says the Indians could very well have a chance at the slugger if he's still unsigned in January or February.

Is Moose the right fit in Cincy?

Nov. 22: The Reds seem to be a club that will be aggressive this offseason, and while many have speculated that Cincinnati's focus will be on bolstering its offense, the addition of someone like Moustakas to play second base could be economical enough for the club to be able to spend on the pitching side -- Zack Wheeler, perhaps?

"Rather than sign Didi Gregorius to play short or Marcell Ozuna to play left, the Reds could acquire less expensive players and platoon at several positions," writes Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic. "They even could alternate [Nick] Senzel between center and second, finding platoon partners at both spots and playing him every day. Another option: Sign Mike Moustakas to play second, leave Senzel in center and fill in with less expensive hitters, leaving enough flexibility to make a run at Wheeler."

With Grandal off market, will Brewers make aggressive push for Moose?

Nov. 21: When the 2019 season ended, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns expressed interest in bringing back both Yasmani Grandal and Moustakas, who ranked second and third on the club in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement last season while combining for 63 home runs.

Grandal is now off the market, however, as he officially joined the White Sox on a four-year, $73 million contract Thursday. There's no free-agent catcher available who can capably replace Grandal's production by himself, so the chances of the Brewers re-signing Moustakas arguably just went up.

First baseman Eric Thames is also gone after Milwaukee didn't pick up his $7.5 million option, removing another 25 home runs from the equation. Meanwhile, Travis Shaw is a non-tender candidate after posting a .551 OPS during his age-29 season.

The club needs power in the infield and knows Moustakas well, but cost could be a factor. According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Moustakas is drawing "considerable interest" from other teams. The 31-year-old made $7 million in 2019, plus another $3 million when he declined his mutual option.

Third time as a free agent a charm for Moose?

Nov. 20: At this point, Moustakas isn't just a veteran big leaguer, he's a veteran at free agency. Despite being productive in 2017, 2018 and 2019, he is on the open market for a third straight offseason after he more or less had to settle for one-year contracts the past two years. Will his third go-round be any different?

"He's made good on consecutive, modest, one-year deals (first with the Royals, then with the Brewers) by continuing to provide his signature power (35 homers, .516 SLG in 2019), his leadership and his solid defense (even sliding over to second in '19)," MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince wrote in naming Moustakas one of the best "repeat" free agents on the market. "That he's shown he can handle second base should only enhance his appeal."

Entering his age-31 campaign, Moustakas remains young and productive enough to merit a multiyear pact from a club. The lefty slugger has played in 443 games, hitting 101 homers and posting a 113 OPS+ since the start of '17, and as Castrovince mentioned, the ability to provide at least some defensive versatility in the infield -- Moustakas played 47 games at the keystone in '19, his first time at the position -- is a new factor for teams to consider.

D-backs a possible fit for Moose?

Nov. 18: Although the D-backs traded franchise cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt last December and ace Zack Greinke in July, they managed to remain in National League Wild Card contention late into September en route to an 85-77 finish. Could a free-agent addition help the team get over the hump and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017?

As Eno Sarris of The Athletic (subscription required) points out, the club's biggest need on offense is either in center field or at second base, depending on Ketel Marte's position. However, neither spot offers a free agent who makes Arizona's lineup markedly better.

Sarris suggests Moustakas could be an option, though that would likely require either third baseman Eduardo Escobar moving to second or Moustakas becoming the club's starting first baseman. Moustakas did log 47 games at the keystone with the Brewers last year and was adequate defensively, but it's unclear how he would hold up there over the course of a full season.

MLB Trade Rumors predicts Moustakas will sign for $10 million per year, so he presumably fits into Arizona's budget. Factoring in projected arbitration raises, Sarris notes that the D-backs should have about $15 million to spend before reaching last year's payroll mark.

Is Moose a more likely target for Philadelphia than Donaldson?

Nov. 17: Maikel Franco had another disappointing season in 2019, and Alec Bohm (MLB Pipeline's No. 34 overall prospect) is still developing in the Minors, making third base an area of need for the Phillies this offseason.

Fortunately for Philadelphia, third base is one of the strongest positions in free agency this year, with Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Moustakas on the market. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury, Moustakas is "very much on the Phillies' radar." The Phils have checked in on Donaldson as well, reports MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Either would represent a major upgrade for Philadelphia, but is one more likely than the other? Perhaps.

It will likely take a longer contract with a higher average annual value to sign Donaldson, limiting the Phillies' flexibility to make other major additions this offseason and potentially blocking Bohm at third base at least through 2022.

There's also the qualifying-offer factor. Donaldson received one from Atlanta and rejected it, meaning the Phils would need to surrender their second-highest selection in the 2020 MLB Draft as well as $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign him.

The Phillies also need rotation help, and several of the top free-agent starters -- including Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner -- rejected qualifying offers. Signing one of these hurlers in addition to Donaldson would cost Philadelphia its third-highest Draft pick as well.

The Phillies won't need to forfeit a Draft pick to sign Moustakas, and his expected cost would leave plenty of room in the budget to add a big-name arm to their rotation.

Braves like Moustakas as Donaldson backup plan

Nov. 13: Add the Braves to the teams interested in Moustakas, per a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Wednesday.

The fit makes sense. Josh Donaldson was great on his one-year deal with Atlanta in 2019, and the Braves would love to have him back, but he could sign anywhere in free agency. If the Braves can't get Donaldson, Moustakas would be a solid Plan B to take over at third base in Atlanta.

While Donaldson had the better statistical season overall, a lot of Moustakas' numbers were comparable, especially in terms of power hitting. Donaldson batted .259, slugged .521 and hit 37 home runs. Moustakas hit .254, slugged .516 and hit 35 home runs.

Here's how Moose helped himself in 2019

Nov. 13: Moustakas is obviously hoping this is the year that he can net a lucrative multi-year contract, and he might have an ace up his sleeve this offseason that he didn't have in previous winters.

Writing for The Athletic on Thursday (subscription required), MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal notes that Moustakas rated slightly above average over the 360 innings he played at second base for the Brewers in 2019, according to Sports Info Solutions' defensive runs saved metric. That could persuade teams to view Moustakas as a versatile multi-positional infielder in '20, theoretically increasing his value on the open market. Moustakas' power was never in question; his ability to man multiple spots on defense could be a differentiating factor.

Crew wants Moose back

Nov. 12: Moustakas has more than paid off for the Brewers since they traded for him in 2018 and re-signed him entering 2019 -- so it's no surprise that Milwaukee wants to bring back the third baseman again in 2020 if possible.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Brewers want to re-sign both Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal, who also signed with Milwaukee as a free agent last offseason.

Moustakas hit 43 home runs in 197 games for the Brewers after his arrival in July 2018, and he was a National League All-Star alongside Grandal in '19.

Here's what Moose can bring to a team

Nov. 10: Although Moustakas has faced a lukewarm free-agent market in each of the past two offseasons, he has continued to hit, following up a 38-homer season in 2017 with 28 home runs in '18, and socking another 35 big flies in '19.

Moustakas is on the open market again, and while he may be overshadowed by fellow free-agent third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, the 31-year-old brings a lot to the table, writes MLB.com's David Adler.

Moustakas has proven to be a consistently above-average hitter, recording a 107 OPS+ or better in each of the past five seasons (114 OPS+ overall), and his hard-hit rate and barrel rate are trending up. Moose also has shown adaptability in the field, playing 47 games at second base in 2019 after never appearing at the position previously in his professional career. His defensive metrics were right around league average as both a second baseman and a third baseman.

Could Moustakas end up in Texas?

Nov. 8: Adrian Beltre retired after the 2018 campaign, and the Rangers had trouble replacing his production at the hot corner this past season. In fact, only two teams -- the Pirates and the Tigers -- produced a lower wRC+ at the position than Texas (77) in 2019. Fortunately for the Rangers, there are several high-end third basemen on the free-agent market, including Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas.

Rendon was thought to be a possibility for the club, given the obvious need and the 29-year-old's ties to the Lone Star State. But MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reported earlier this week that the Rangers aren't interested in giving out a contract longer than five years, making Donaldson a more likely target.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan,Texas is indeed showing interest in Donaldson, who is coming off a strong bounceback year with the Braves after signing a one-year, $23 million contract.

Donaldson, however, received a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer from Atlanta, and he is expected to reject it. As a result, the Rangers would need to forfeit a Draft pick to sign him. The 33-year-old also is likely to command an annual salary in the range of $25 million over three or perhaps even four years.

Given their rotation needs, the Rangers might be better suited to pursue Moustakas, who was among seven intriguing mid-level free agents Eno Sarris looked at in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) on Thursday. Sarris predicts Moustakas will end up with the Rangers for $36 million over three years, which would leave plenty of room for the team to pursue a free-agent starter or two.

Moose's versatility value

Nov. 7: While he wasn't outstanding at either position, Moustakas was solid at third base and second base for the Brewers last season, and his defensive versatility could be an underrated element of his free-agent value, according to Mark Simon in an article for The Athletic.

"He’s not going to excel in the field, but he’s not going to embarrass himself or his team either," Simon writes. "Moustakas has also played four games at first base in his career and could be viewed as comparable to someone like Max Muncy of the Dodgers."

Moose is a bat-first guy, but his defensive flexibility shouldn't be dismissed.

Moustakas lands among FanGraphs' Top 20 free agents

Nov. 4: FanGraphs' annual Top 50 free agents list was published Monday, and Moustakas came in at No. 14 on their big board rankings.

FanGraphs writer Kiley McDaniel estimates a two-year, $32 million deal for Moustakas this offseason, while the site's readership submitted a median crowdsource estimate of three years and $36 million. Fellow FanGraphs writer Rachael McDaniel writes that this is Moustakas' "best position yet to secure a favorable contract" after experiencing back-to-back disappointments in the free-agent market in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson are the only free-agent third basemen ranked ahead of Moustakas on FanGraphs' rankings.

Are Brewers set to make push to retain Grandal & Moose?

Nov. 4: With their moves on Monday, the Brewers freed up some extra cash to possibly make a push to re-sign Yasmani Grandal and Moustakas.

Milwaukee traded Chase Anderson, who had an $8.5 million team option for 2020, to the Blue Jays and declined Eric Thames' $7.5 million team option ($1 million buyout), saving about $15 million in the process.

Grandal and Moustakas earned $23 million this past season ($16 million for Grandal and $7 million for Moustakas) and received an additional $5.25 million combined in buyouts when they both declined their mutual options. After Grandal posted 5.2 FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement and Moustakas 2.8 fWAR in 2019, they each could look for a longer contract this offseason.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman suggests the Brewers' moves may also signal the intention to pursue one of the top free-agent starters.

Moustakas officially a free agent; these teams could use him

Nov. 1: Yasmani Grandal and Moustakas declined their mutual options on Friday, officially becoming free agents. Both veteran players were widely expected to do so after landing in Milwaukee on one-year deals -- Moustakas' second consecutive one-year deal -- when they did not find multiyear contracts to their liking last offseason. Brewers general manager David Stearns has not closed the door on bringing back either player.

Moustakas has strong competition on the third-base market, joining Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, among others. But there are plenty of teams that could use an upgrade at third base, and those that come up empty on Rendon and Donaldson -- or are looking for a lower-cost alternative -- could turn to Moose. The Angels, Cardinals, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, Rays and White Sox are among the clubs that could have use for the 31-year-old, in addition to the Brewers. The Nats and Braves could, too, if Rendon and Donaldson sign elsewhere.