Yankees, White Sox top fits for Moustakas

Slugger still on market for clubs seeking power at hot corner

February 20th, 2018

For and J.D. Martinez, the eternal offseason is over. Hosmer's eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres became official on Tuesday. Martinez's months-long staring contest with the Red Sox yielded a five-year, $110 million pact that includes two opt-out clauses.

Meanwhile, Mike Moustakas waits.

Like Hosmer and Martinez, Moustakas is represented by agent Scott Boras. Unlike Hosmer and Martinez, he's not sure where he'll report for Spring Training.

Moustakas, 29, appeared to enter free agency with momentum, after slugging a franchise-record 38 home runs for the Royals in 2017. But the market at third base has been unforgiving, as All-Stars available in trade () and converted shortstops (Zack Cozart) landed jobs with the Giants and Angels, respectively.

One National League executive said Monday that the Yankees and White Sox have the best chances to land Moustakas, based on current market conditions. The Royals also could re-sign Moustakas, although their front office is prepared to start rebuilding with younger players. Some within the industry see the Cardinals as a fit for Moustakas, but they appear comfortable with incumbent third baseman , who hit 50 home runs over the past two seasons.

The White Sox want to add a long-term third baseman in the next 12 months and could seize the opportunity to sign Moustakas now, rather than pursue free agents Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson during the 2018-19 offseason. Third base is the rare position at which the White Sox haven't procured an elite prospect in trades over the past couple years.

Yankees officials believe prospect can be their third baseman of the future, but it's unclear if he'll be ready by Opening Day. Reports have suggested the Yanks may want to avoid having a young starter at both third and second base, where prospect is involved in a spring roster competition.

The Yankees also are known to be pursuing starting-pitching options, including free agent . It would be difficult for them to add both a No. 2 or No. 3 starting pitcher and Moustakas for no more than $15 million combined in 2018 payroll obligations; the Yanks want to keep their spending within that budget between now and Opening Day, to preserve the flexibility to acquire players at the Trade Deadline without surpassing the $197 million luxury-tax threshold.

For Moustakas, the presence of Machado and Donaldson in next offseason's free-agent class lessens the appeal of a one-year contract -- even at a high salary. Moustakas likely won't want to compete directly with fellow All-Stars for a limited number of jobs when he's another year older.

Other Hot Stove storylines, with Grapefruit League and Cactus League schedules about to begin:

• The Hosmer signing has opened up a number of trade avenues for the Padres, now that is being moved to an outfield corner. Sources say the Braves have inquired about the Friars' available position players, including 26-year-old outfielder . He hit 26 home runs for San Diego as a rookie in 2017, but he will have an uncertain outlook for '18 if Myers shifts to right field, where Renfroe started 117 games last season.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos is known for his aggressiveness in trades and could view Renfroe as a long-term candidate for Atlanta's outfield, with veteran right fielder likely departing as a free agent after 2018. The Braves also could consider trading for Corey Dickerson, who was surprisingly designated for assignment by the Rays.

• Despite months of speculation that a Martinez signing would prompt the Red Sox to trade outfielder , sources indicated Monday night that a deal involving Bradley is not likely before Opening Day. Boston is inclined to retain its current lineup depth, at least until it's apparent how often will be able to play first base. Ramirez started only 17 games there in 2017 due to a left shoulder injury.

• Now that Hosmer is a Padre, the Royals can pursue a lower-cost first baseman for 2018. They are intrigued by free agent , who is coming off a good defensive season for the Rockies in which he hit 30 home runs with an .839 OPS. Free agent , a Kansas City native, ranked fifth in the Majors with 38 home runs last year and would welcome the chance to play for his hometown team.