The Yankees were one game away from the World Series in 2017, but they were far from a perfect team. The DH spot and third base in particular left a lot to be desired. While we all took to Todd Frazier’s thumbs down celebration, his bat didn’t cause many celebrations. Currently, the Yankees likely have Chase Headley penciled in for the hot corner, which doesn’t really inspire confidence. Looking at other options might not be the worst idea.
The best third baseman on the market right now is Mike Moustakas. He’s spent his entire seven-year career with the Royals, who are heading towards a rebuild, and is coming off arguably his best season. He really came into his own as a hitter in 2015 but injuries limited him to just 27 games in 2016. A strong bounceback season, which earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors, has set Moustakas up for a solid payday. Should the Yankees be cutting his future checks though?
On first thought? No. On second thought? Also no. Moustakas is a fine player, but he doesn’t really fit in with the Yankees goals and what they’re trying to accomplish. First off, how much he will earn on the open market. The Yankees stated goal for this upcoming year is to get under the luxury tax threshold.
The Yankees supposedly want to be big players in the 2018-2019 free agent class, but want to reset their penalty threshold before doing so. MLB Trade Rumors is predicting that Moustakas signs for five years, $85 million. With Headley’s $13 million still on the books for next year, there’s no way the Yankees add $17 million for Moustakas. Even if Brian Cashman, who is shopping Headley, can clear Headley’s salary from the books via trade, Moustakas doesn’t really make sense for the Yankees.
One of the reasons the Yankees are looking to get under the threshold is because they supposedly have interest in Manny Machado. Outside of an (hopefully) outlier 2017, Machado is one of the best players in baseball. If anyone had to choose one of the two, Machado is the obvious choice any day of the week. They’re not going to block Machado just a year away from him hitting free agency.
There’s also Gleyber Torres. Many in the organization felt he was ready this past Opening Day, and Cashman has already indicated that Torres will have a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training. Even if Torres doesn’t start the season in the majors, he’s going to make his way up at some point in 2018 and third base is the most obvious place for him right now. If the supposed Machado plan comes to fruition, Torres could eventually take Starlin Castro’s place at second base.
So the cost doesn’t make sense and the Yankees don’t really have a space for him, but how is he as a player? Usually when there’s top-talent available, I’d advocate for making room and figuring it out, and well it’s not my money so why do I care? The problem here? Moustakas just isn’t that good. He had a power surge in 2017, hitting 38 home runs and eclipsing his previous mark of 22. Yet he was still only good enough for a 116 OPS+ and 114 wRC+. His 5.7 BB% is a serious cause of concern.
While that power is nice, the Yankees have that aspect covered thanks to Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird. The ability to draw a walk and get on base at a higher percentage than .314 is what the Yankees would want. Plus the power significantly dropped in the second half considering he hit his 30th home run on July 28th, and only hit eight after that. There’s a chance that the surge may have just been a fluke.
With Headley and Torres as the main options for next year and the prospect of Machado coming the following, there’s just no room for Moustakas with the Yankees. Though they’re not in love with his glove, the Yankees also have Miguel Andujar available in case anything were to happen to Headley and/or Torres. Regardless, the Yankees seem set at third base without Moustakas and could likely find cheaper alternatives for less of a commitment than Moustakas.
First and second thought were a no, but after really thinking about it and adding thoughts four, five, and six? The “no” just gets that much more prominent. Plus, moose tacos just sound awful.
*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.