PHOENIX -- It was assumed all offseason that if the Brewers re-signed Mike Moustakas, he would man third base and Travis Shaw would shift back to second. Turns out the team had the opposite alignment in mind.
Moustakas signed a one-year deal on Tuesday and will embark on a six-week tryout at second base, a position he has never manned in a Major League game. If he handles it as expected, manager Craig Counsell said, Moustakas will play second and Shaw will remain at third, where he was a National League Gold Glove Award finalist in 2018.
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It's not an entirely new idea. When the Brewers swung a trade with the Royals for Moustakas, he agreed to give second base a try. Shaw had a head start, however, and when he showed quickly that he could handle it, the team opted against further changes in the heat of a pennant race.
Now, having an entire Spring Training to evaluate their options means more flexibility.
"If Mike's aboard, what we've talked about is not anything different than the conversation we had in late July last year when we were debating this whole thing," said Counsell. "We would explore Mike at second base, 'Is that what we're going to do?' ... because that's what we don't know about. At some point, we would have to make a decision.
"This is what Spring Training is for. We're definitely going to look at players at different positions, and this one is a plan that we had eight months ago that we can do right now, and have some time to do."
Why not just stick with Moustakas at third and Shaw at second, since it worked last year? Most defensive metrics prefer Shaw at third, for one. And it could prove less disruptive in the longer term, since Moustakas can serve as a one-year bridge to the Brewers' second baseman of the future, be it Keston Hiura, Mauricio Dubon or someone else. Shaw, meanwhile, is under club control through 2021.
Moustakas is game for the switch, according to Counsell.
"I talked to Mike a couple of weeks ago about it, actually," Counsell said. "He was on board the first time, and he's still on board."
News of Moustakas' return was welcomed by his teammates, many of whom had remained in touch with the 30-year-old during his second straight frustrating foray into free agency. Shaw was holding out hope Moustakas would land the sort of multiyear contract he was seeking, but when that didn't happen, Shaw was pleased to hear his friend was returning.
"I don't think it really surprised anybody," Shaw said. "It's been reported that he might be coming back and now he's back with us."
As for what it means for the infield alignment, Shaw said, "We've talked a little bit. It was kind of a hypothetical situation but now that it's real, we'll see what the plan is. I still envision myself as a third baseman and we'll see what the plan is moving forward but as of right now, I still plan to try to play third base."
Shaw was not the only happy teammate. Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich spent much of the offseason with Moustakas, raising funds via their "California Strong" campaign for those impacted by the dual tragedies of the Thousand Oaks shooting followed by wildfires throughout the state. All three players were displaced from their own homes by the Woolsey fire.
And Lorenzo Cain was once again reunited with a former Royals teammate. He and Moustakas were part of the core of the Kansas City teams that played in back-to-back World Series in 2014-2015, winning the title in '15.
"You kind of got a glimpse of what he did last year for us," Cain said. "Helped us out big time. If he signs, we get him for a whole year. That's nice. He's going to bring leadership and toughness to this team. He has all of that and we all know what he can do on the field. Nice addition. Nice to have. I've been around him for a while, so I understand what he can do and what he brings."
Said Braun: "I've known Mikey forever, since he was a little kid. He came here last year, fit in seamlessly, performed for us really well on the field. Obviously, became a big part of our culture in the locker room as well. For all of us, we're really excited to have him back this year."
Yelich's excitement when the news broke Sunday afternoon was in GIF format. He shared an image of a jumping, dancing Moose via social media.
"I saw it and I started laughing and just wanted to put that out there because it was so funny," Yelich said. "We need to get him that costume and make him do that dance."
That would be a sight.
"It's great to have him back," Yelich said. "I've gotten to know Moose really well over the last year. Great competitor, great teammate, big contributor to us down the stretch. It's good to have him back, and he just brings that edge, that mentality back to the clubhouse, a winning culture and how to play the game the right way. It's important, and guys like him are important in this game."