The fact that third baseman Mike Moustakas had to settle for a $6.5MM guarantee in free agency is the latest sign that the owners defeated the players in winter 2016 CBA negotiations, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America opines. In accepting the Royals’ offer, reportedly the only one he received from any team in his four months on the open market, Moustakas took a pay cut from his 2017 salary ($8.7MM) after belting 38 home runs and accounting for 2.2 fWAR. He also ended up with far less than he’d have gotten had he said yes to the Royals’ $17.4MM qualifying offer in November. In December, long before Moustakas signed, now-Angels right-hander/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani emigrated from Japan. In order to join the Angels, the two-way sensation had to take a relatively inexpensive bonus and agree to be under team control for six years. That was yet another result of a CBA that Cooper sees as clearly being in the owners’ favor. The CBA isn’t due to expire until December 2021, meaning the owners could be in the catbird seat for a while longer, but Cooper argues that they should make some good-faith concessions to improve their relationship with the union. For one, they should do away with making clubs give up draft picks to sign qualified free agents (Moustakas was a victim of that), Cooper contends.
- As you’d expect, Moustakas’ rep, Scott Boras, isn’t pleased with how free agency unfolded for his client. Boras told reporters, including Rustin Dodd of The Athletic (subscription required), on Saturday: “Our system has failed. We always want demand for the best. This is about players, players who are excellent, players who are All-Stars, and Moose has delivered in all.” The high-powered agent added that “it’s become something other than the best players playing baseball at the highest level for the best teams.” The past few months have been a mixed bag for Boras, who arguably hasn’t worked quite as much magic as usual. Clients Eric Hosmer (eight years, $144MM) and J.D. Martinez (five years, $110MM) have landed two of the three biggest contracts since last season ended, but Moustakas, Carlos Gonzalez (one year, $8MM) and Carlos Gomez (one year, $4MM) didn’t sign for nearly as much as hoped. What’s more, Jake Arrieta and Greg Holland continue to languish in free agency as the regular season nears.
- Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy is progressing in his recovery from October knee surgery, though it’s not yet clear whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day, per Jamal Collier of MLB.com. Murphy took batting practice for the first time this year on Saturday, after which he said he didn’t experience any discomfort. The 32-year-old also fielded 15 to 20 ground balls Saturday, but “he has not graduated to lateral movements,” Collier writes, and has only run on a treadmill to this point. Overall, though, Murphy believes he’s “responding really well.”
- Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun’s attempt to play first base this spring isn’t going all that smoothly, even though it has been “enjoyable,” he explained Saturday (via the Associated Press). “I definitely don’t feel comfortable at all,” the 34-year-old admitted. “I’m doing the best I can with it. Guys have to make sacrifices. I think ultimately if we want to get to where we want to get as a team, based on the roster we’ve put together, it obviously helps make us a better team if I’m able to play multiple positions.” Interestingly, Braun added that because of the bending and squatting that are required for playing first, his new position has been “a lot harder” on his back than lining up in the outfield. Braun’s back issued contributed to his abbreviated campaign in 2017 (104 games), and with Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich now on hand in the Brewers’ outfield, playing first could help get him and other Brewers outfielders more at-bats this year. That’s if he’s able to hold up from a health standpoint, of course.