Former Mets’ General Manager Jim Duquette is among a chorus of pundits speculating that the Yankees could or should sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. Duquette, writing for MLB.com, listed Moustakas to the Yankees as one of his “best fits for top remaining free agents.”
Moustakas clubbed 38 homers last season, setting a new Royals’ franchise record. He is a two-time All-Star, and became a homegrown leader on a Kansas City team that went from perennial doormats to World Series champions in 2015.
It’s easy to visualize Moustakas sliding into the already potent Yankees’ lineup, a left-handed slugger to complement Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird, while helping to provide balance to righties Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez. Who wouldn’t want to see a lefty-hitting third baseman taking aim at that short porch in right field and swatting 38 home runs (or more) in pinstripes?
It’s worth noting, however, that his previous career high was 22 homers in 2015. He also carries a career on-base percentage of .305. Last year, Chris Carter (.284 OBP) was the only Yankees’ regular who fared worse. Still, the main problem with Moustakas fitting in with the Yankees isn’t the player. It’s the money that would be required to land him.
The front office is adamant about getting under the $197 million CBT threshold this season. According to Brian Cashman, the club has about $15 million left that they can commit before Opening Day, while still leaving enough of a prudent reserve to accommodate in-season moves as needs arise. MLB Trade Rumors projected Moustakas to land a five-year, $85 million deal. That’s an average annual value of $17 million.
Even if Moustakas is amenable to a one-year pillow contract, as Duquette suggests, $17 million would still put the Yankees over budget. Because Moustakas received and rejected a qualifying offer – and because New York paid a luxury tax last year – the club would also lose its second-highest and fifth-highest draft picks and $1MM of international bonus pool money for signing him.
The team has already announced its intention to let prospects battle for the two open infield positions in spring training, and I feel good about that. I would not agree with the Yankees salary-dumping David Robertson or Brett Gardner in order to make room under the cap for Moustakas.
The Yankees already had viable options for both openings in Starlin Castro and Chase Headley, but sent them packing to shed salary. Both were set to earn far less than what Moustakas is expected to get. Cashman also allowed fan-favorite Todd Frazier to sign with the Mets for only $17 million over two years, about the same as what Moose is expected to earn over one season. The Toddfather could have began the season as the incumbent third baseman, while also providing insurance against a potential Greg Bird injury. Instead, Cashman passed on all these options.
The way I see it, Cashman wouldn’t have done that if he had reservations about the youngsters’ abilities to step up and perform at the big league level. I view the GM’s actions as a vote of confidence for the kids.
I really like that. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching prospects like Judge, Sanchez, Bird, Green, and Severino rise through the system and become stars. Call me greedy, but I would love to watch Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar do the same. I would prefer that over the Yankees signing Moustakas at such a high cost.
I say go with the kids out of spring training and re-evaluate at mid-season. If either or both are under-performing, the Yankees can make a move then. It’s hard to imagine the Mets, Padres, or Marlins contending for a playoff spot this year, so a trade to re-acquire one of the three departed players would probably be doable — if need be. Other options may emerge as well. In the meantime, I will be rooting for Torres and Andujar to win the jobs in camp and take the league by storm.