Phillies

Phillies free-agent target: Mike Moustakas

Phillies free-agent target: Mike Moustakas

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today: Mike Moustakas, a third baseman who's been connected to the Phillies multiple times over the last two years and whose agent the Phillies have already touched base with this offseason.

The vitals

You know what you're getting with Mike Moustakas: power, a .250ish batting average, an OPS about 10 percent above the league average and defense that won't hurt you. 

He's not Top 5 at his position or even Top 10, but he's a helpful player who can bat fifth or sixth and produce runs. Moustakas' .845 OPS last season was 14th among qualifying third basemen, but it was 130 points higher than Maikel Franco's. If the 2019 Phillies had Moustakas, they probably would have won a few more games.

Moustakas will play the 2020 season at age 31. His 101 home runs the last three seasons are 14th-most in the majors and fifth-most among third basemen. That list: 

Nolan Arenado: 116
Eugenio Suarez: 109
Joey Gallo: 103
Manny Machado: 102
Mike Moustakas: 101

Why he fits

The Phillies need another productive everyday player at third base, shortstop or center field. Scott Kingery's defensive flexibility allows the Phillies to pick from multiple position groups. 

If the Phillies can add only one of Didi Gregorius or Moustakas, for example, they'd have to weigh whether Moustakas' power or Gregorius' all-around game is more beneficial to their infield. 

For the Phillies, signing Moustakas to a two-year deal would allow them more time for Alec Bohm to develop (especially defensively) at Triple A. It would also buy the Phils an extra year to figure out whether Bohm can even play third base, whether Bohm may need to move to first base and make Rhys Hoskins expendable, or whether Bohm himself could be used as a trade chip.

Why he doesn't fit

If you sign Moustakas to a two- or three-year deal, and Bohm does develop and force the issue, then what? Then you've created a problem for yourself and a need to trade somebody to make room on the infield corners. 

In theory, it may sound like no big deal — if that happens, you can flip one of Hoskins, Bohm or Moustakas for a player at an area of need. But it doesn't always work out that way. The league would see the Phillies' need to make a deal and that would diminish some of the Phils' leverage.

Moustakas' age isn't a big concern — at 31, he's at the tail-end of his prime, and his next contract is unlikely to take him into his late-30s.

The price tag

Moustakas was forced to sign one-year deals each of the last two offseasons. He deserved better but the free-agent market isn't always fair or linear. 

Coming off a career-high 38 homers in 2017, Moustakas rejected the Royals' qualifying offer of $15 million and ultimately had to settle for a one-year, $6.5 million deal to return to Kansas City.

Then Moustakas hit 28 homers and drove in 95 runs with a .774 OPS and had to settle for another one-year deal, this time for $10 million with Milwaukee ($3 million of which came in the form of a 2020 buyout from the Brewers).

This winter, Moustakas should finally find a multi-year deal. Something like two years, $24 million seems fair. Moustakas' side (he's represented by Scott Boras) will want more years, but teams will be hestitant to commit to his age-33 season. Moustakas still might get three years.

It will be interesting to see whether Moustakas or Josh Donaldson signs first. Both have incentive to let the other set the market. Donaldson was the better player in 2019 but Moustakas was the better and healthier player overall from 2017-19.

Scout's take

"Fair defender. Power is solid, results are there. Limited athleticism. Threat in the middle of the lineup but the body gives concern for excessive years of commitment."

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

Where will Didi Gregorius hit in the Phillies' order? How will the infield defense be aligned? Are the Phillies done? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss on Wednesday's At the Yard podcast.

• Surprised it was a 1-year deal?

• Why a 1-year deal carries so much value for the Phillies.

• Will Kingery play 2B or 3B?

• Could Segura be dealt?

• Where might Didi bat in the order?

• An interesting Phillies-Yankees trade idea from Jim.

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Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Didi Gregorius is a fun addition for the Phillies. His personality and the joy he plays with will quickly make him a fan favorite. He'll improve the clubhouse dynamic and he'll improve the Phillies' infield defense and lineup.

At one year, what's not to like? It's a one-year, $14 million contract for Gregorius, according to Jim Salisbury, which gives the Phillies an entire year to figure out their infield. Where does Jean Segura fit? What about Scott Kingery? When will Alec Bohm be ready? Can Rhys Hoskins, the most important hitter of them all, turn it around in 2020?

By tying themselves to Didi for only one year, the Phillies can pivot quickly if this does not work out, or if a second base/third base combo of Jean Segura and Scott Kingery does not provide enough offense. Bohm is the other major factor in all of this — if his defense can hold at third base for even a few years during the early part of his career, and if his power and control of the strike zone can translate to the majors, he could be the run-producing five-hole hitter this Phillies team needs.

Before Bohm arrives, though, the question is whether the Phillies' eight projected everyday players represent a contending lineup. It will likely shake out like this. Focus more on the names than the batting order because of how many variations there could be:

1. Andrew McCutchen, LF (R)
2. Didi Gregorius, SS (L)
3. J.T. Realmuto, C (R)
4. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
5. Rhys Hoskins, 1B (R)
6. Jean Segura, 2B (R)
7. Scott Kingery, 3B (R)
8. Adam Haseley, CF (L)

Given the current composition of the rest of the Phillies' roster, this looks like a mid-80s-win team at first glance. A team that projects for 85 to 87 wins with a chance to crack 90 if many things break right. 

If Hoskins rebounds. 

If Kingery becomes a valuable everyday offensive contributor. 

If McCutchen has a full season as productive as his pre-injury work in 2019. 

If the Aaron Nola-Zack Wheeler duo combines for 400 innings with an ERA in the low 3.00s.

If Bohm and Spencer Howard force the Phillies' hand by playing well.

If we see second-half Realmuto and Harper in 2020.

If Jake Arrieta can be more of a No. 3 than a No. 5.

If the Phillies find and settle on a reliable 8th inning-9th inning combination.

The Phillies are unquestionably better now than they were at the end of the 2019 season. Gregorius is a better and more impactful than the player he's basically replacing, Cesar Hernandez. Wheeler is the No. 2 starter the Phillies desperately needed. New manager Joe Girardi may be able to add a win or two here and there with good decision-making.

They are better. The question is how much better. Good enough to push the Nationals and Braves for the division? That would seem an optimistic viewpoint of this Phillies roster, but they can still tinker with their core throughout the offseason by adding another starting pitcher like Wade Miley, a high-upside reliever like Dellin Betances and another good hitter for the bench.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
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