The Baltimore Orioles have reportedly discussed signing third baseman Mike Moustakas. Moustakas played for the Kansas City Royals last season.
Moustakas, 29, has played for the Kansas City Royals his entire career, and had the best year of his career last season, slashing .272/.314/.521 with 38 home runs, 75 runs, and 85 RBIs.
According to Kubatko, the Baltimore Orioles front office is weighing the pros and cons of signing Moustakas. While he presents a much-needed left-handed bat in the team’s lineup and a potential replacement for Manny Machado if and when he leaves Baltimore (whether through trade or free agency), Moustakas also has a career .305 OBP. Though, in 2015, he did slash .284/.348/.470.
Given how much of an offensive force Moustakas was last season, it’s fair to wonder just how real it was or if it was more an illusion. The batting average is, I think, believable, given that it came with an awfully low .263 BABIP (though part of that is due to his profile as a power hitter and not so much as a line drive hitter).
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The power seems fairly real as well, though the fact that his hard-hit rate decreased from 37.4% to 31.9% between 2016 and 2017 is somewhat concerning. If he wants to keep up his HR/FB rate of around 17-20% like he has the past two seasons, that’s going to need to come back up.
One positive thing – Moustakas has significantly decreased the number of ground balls he’s hitting and increased his fly balls, having his groundball rate drop from 41.8% in 2016 to 34.8% in 2017 and his fly ball rate increase from 39.6% in 2016 to 45.7% in 2017. And in a hitter-friendly environment like the majority of the AL East is, Moustakas could thrive.
One thing that’s very concerning though is the fact that his chase rate was a career-worst last season, at 40.3%, nearly double what it was in 2016, and his whiff rate was a near-career-worst, at 10.5% (his worst was 10.8% in 2012).
Fortunately, however, Moustakas is far from a defensive liability in the field, having had a positive defensive rating his entire career save for last season when it was -3.1.
As it stands, there really is no heir apparent to Machado at the third base position once he leaves the team. However, if they elected to sign Moustakas, or one of the other available third basemen, they could potentially allow Machado to move over to shortstop like he reportedly wants to.
MLBTradeRumors.com estimated that Moustakas would receive a five-year, $85 million contract this offseason. It doesn’t seem likely that the Baltimore Orioles would give him that, but if time goes on and he hasn’t signed with anyone, his price might drop, and that’s when the Baltimore Orioles might strike.