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Yankees potential trade target: Mike Moustakas

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The Royals star represents an intriguing possibility because of his left-handed power bat and corner-infield versatility.

Mike Moustakas belted a career-high 38 home runs in 2018, while also posting a personal best .835 OPS.
Mike Moustakas belted a career-high 38 home runs in 2018, while also posting a personal best .835 OPS.
Peter G. Aiken

Before the Yankees arrived in Baltimore on Monday — which jump-started the Manny Machado to New York news cycle — Mike Moustakas was the hottest trade topic. Although Machado speculation still dominates the rumor mill, the potential deal for Moose hasn’t died. In fact, it may be even closer to actually happening than we think.

Randy Miller reported on NJ.com that the Yankees had a scout in Kansas City last weekend looking at Moustakas. The Royals third baseman made his fourth career start at first base on Saturday and then his fifth on Sunday.

As with the trade-deadline acquisition of Todd Frazier last July, the Yankees could be looking at the potential corner infield versatility that Moose might provide. Among 17 batting-title qualifiers, Miguel Andujar ranks last in MLB with -1.0 defensive WAR at third base, while Moustakas ranks seventh at 0.4. Andujar also has a negative-13 defensive runs saved, with Moose posting a plus-4 DRS.

Andujar boasts an .808 OPS, which at the moment is a tick higher than Moose’s .790 mark. Andujar also leads all rookies with 40 extra-base hits, including 26 doubles. Offensive production at first base has been a problem, though. The Yankees rank 24th with only 39.7 runs created from first base, and are 26th with a .677 OPS. First base is by far the team’s least productive position on the diamond in terms of offense.

Moustakas belted a career-high 38 home runs last season, while also posting a personal best .835 OPS. The lefty-hitting slugger is enjoying another good campaign this year, with 19 homers and 58 RBIs, while slashing .256/.310/.480 in 344 at-bats.

Greg Bird has struggled at the plate since returning from the disabled list, although the 25-year-old did hit a pair of big home runs against the O’s this week — including his first career grand slam. Hopefully this week’s firepower display marks the beginning of a turn-around for Bird’s season.

Bird and Andujar’s full potential can’t be realized if they don’t play every day, and trading for Moose would undoubtedly cut into the playing time of one or both. Still, Moustakas represents an intriguing — and perhaps even ideal — option for the Yankees to improve their roster as far as position players go. He is a veteran clubhouse leader who was a major reason the Royals won consecutive AL pennants and a World Series title. The right-field porch at Yankee Stadium would undoubtedly be an inviting target for Moose, while his corner infield play offers obvious benefits.

Acquiring him would not be a financial issue for the budget-conscious Yankees front office. Because a desirable long-term contract didn’t materialize for Moose this past offseason, he signed a very team-friendly $6.5 million contract with a mutual option for 2019. At this point, the Yankees would be on the hook for less than half that figure, around $3 million. So the club could likely land Moose without foregoing a starting pitching upgrade due to financial concerns.

It remains to be seen what the Royals might expect in terms of prospects heading their way in exchange for Moose. With his relatively low contract value, this wouldn’t be a straight salary-dump situation. Kansas City would expect something in return. If the Yankees can get Moustakas without giving up a top prospect, I think they should do it. Moose may just turn out to be the final piece to the puzzle in what ends up being a championship run.