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Brewers land big bat in Moustakas

Milwaukee sends OF Phillips, RHP Lopez to Kansas City
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Brewers needed an impact bat, and they got it. Now they'll have to work Mike Moustakas onto a roster already well-stocked at the infield and outfield corners.

The Brewers acquired Moustakas from the Royals late Friday for outfield prospect Brett Phillips and reliever Jorge Lopez, a trade engineered to be a creative solution to Milwaukee's need for a productive middle infielder. Moustakas is a third baseman, a position occupied for the past season and a half by Travis Shaw -- but Shaw has taken some ground balls in recent weeks at second, and will start there Saturday night when Moustakas is scheduled to make his Brewers debut.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Brewers needed an impact bat, and they got it. Now they'll have to work Mike Moustakas onto a roster already well-stocked at the infield and outfield corners.

The Brewers acquired Moustakas from the Royals late Friday for outfield prospect Brett Phillips and reliever Jorge Lopez, a trade engineered to be a creative solution to Milwaukee's need for a productive middle infielder. Moustakas is a third baseman, a position occupied for the past season and a half by Travis Shaw -- but Shaw has taken some ground balls in recent weeks at second, and will start there Saturday night when Moustakas is scheduled to make his Brewers debut.

The Brewers added Moustakas to their roster Saturday and optioned outfielder Keon Broxton to Triple-A. The club also reinstated right-hander Matt Albers and designated infielder Brad Miller for assignment before their game at San Francisco.

"I feel like I can do a decent job over there," Shaw said. "Everybody is going to say I can't do it, and I'm going to take that challenge to heart. [Moustakas] is obviously going to make our lineup better, make our lineup deeper."

Moustakas, 29, is slashing .249/.309/.468 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs in his first 378 at-bats for Kansas City this season. He was an All-Star in 2017 and hit a career-high 38 home runs, and Brewers officials believe he'll be particularly potent at Miller Park, which is friendly to left-handed hitters who lift the baseball in the air.

"We think Mike is one of the, if not the, best bat currently available," Brewers GM David Stearns said.

At this time last year, Moustakas did not expect to be Trade Deadline bait. He went into free agency off of one of the best years of his career and rejected the Royals' $17.4 million qualifying offer to seek a multi-year deal. When he didn't find one, he returned to the Royals on a one-year, $6.5 million deal that included $2.2 million in incentives for plate appearances.

The contract includes a $15 million mutual option for 2019 with a $1 million buyout.

Video: Slugger Moustakas delivering at the plate, in field

The Brewers prize run prevention, but have gotten so little offensively from their middle infielders this season -- Milwaukee entered Friday ranked 28th in the Major Leagues in weighted on-base average at second base, and last at shortstop -- that they have sacrificed defense in a search for offense. Stearns acquired Tyler Saladino from the White Sox and Brad Miller from the Rays in minor trades, but neither has had sustained success. He tried to get Manny Machado from the Orioles, but finished runner-up to the Dodgers. He reportedly inquired on the Twins' Eduardo Escobar and the Mets' Asdrubal Cabrera, but they were traded elsewhere Friday.

With Moustakas in mind as a different way to solve the problem, the Brewers earlier this season presented Shaw with the possibility of playing some second base, and he said he was open to it. Shaw worked on turning double plays -- the trickiest part of such a switch -- during Milwaukee's June 21-24 series against the Cardinals.

When he was instructed to take grounders exclusively at second base during batting practice on Friday, Shaw figured something was up.

"Everything we've seen in practice, in pregame, in all of the shifting that we do, we believe that he's capable of handling it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's part of this, for sure. It's a decision that we believe in."

Counsell's advice?

"Keep it simple. Catch it and throw it to first. Take your time. Be smooth," Counsell said. "He'll get the hang of it. Travis is a baseball rat. He soaks up things really fast. He'll get the hang of it pretty quickly."

Said Stearns: "We're focused on the upside here offensively here, adding an impact bat to the lineup. The truth is, with the way we move our infielders around, conventional positions don't apply to us all that much. We ask a lot of all of our infielders to play all over the dirt."

Video: MLB Tonight crew discusses Moustakas Trade to Brewers

The Moustakas trade was Stearns' second significant swap this week. He acquired White Sox closer Joakim Soria for two prospects on Thursday.

For Phillips, it's the second time he's been traded at the non-waiver Deadline in three years. He came to the Brewers in a July 2015 blockbuster with the Astros, along with Josh Hader, Domingo Santana and Adrian Houser, while Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez got sent to Houston.

All of those players have appeared in the Majors for Milwaukee including Phillips, 24, a left-handed hitter with a strong throwing arm who has been up and down between the Majors and Minors the past two years. He posted an .851 OPS as a Brewers regular last September and had hopes of being an everyday player in 2018, but those chances diminished when the Brewers acquired outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in late January.

Lopez, 25, was once considered the Brewers' top pitching prospect before moving to relief in 2017. He has shuttled between the big leagues and the Minors six times this season alone while posting a 2.75 ERA in 10 appearances, part of the group of relief pitchers with Minor League options called up when the Brewers need a fresh arm.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Moustakas