Mike Moustakas “badly” wanted to re-sign with the Brewers, who granted his wish last month when they brought him back for a $10MM guarantee, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes (subscription required). It was the second consecutive drawn-out stay on the open market for the 30-year-old Moustakas, a career-long third baseman who will move to second base in 2019. It’s a surprising transition on the surface, but not for either the Brewers or Moustakas. Thanks to the presence of third baseman Travis Shaw, who shifted to second upon Moustakas’ arrival at last July’s trade deadline, the Brewers negotiated with the latter with the intention of trying him at second, per Rosenthal. Moustakas, for his part, informed agent Scott Boras early in the offseason he’d like to prepare for a change to second in order to make himself more attractive on the open market, Rosenthal explains. In the end, the increased versatility didn’t lead to a long-term deal for Moustakas, who reeled in his second straight single-year guarantee.
Here’s more from the NL Central:
- Retirement is hardly imminent for 36-year-old Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he’d like to play at least one more season with the team after his current contract runs out. Molina’s signed through 2020, which will be his 16th season and a year in which he’ll pass Bob Gibson to become the second-longest tenured player in the Cardinals’ storied history. However, while Molina wants to make it to at least Year 17, the potential Hall of Famer has no interest in overstaying his welcome in the majors. “I don’t want to retire when I hit .190 and I can’t throw anybody out at second,” said Molina, who batted .261 and caught 31 percent of would-be base stealers in 2018. When Molina finally does close out his playing career, don’t expect him to become the latest ex-catcher to become a big league manager, as he tells Hummel he’s uninterested in going down that road.
- Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty, 23, was among the best young starters in baseball last season, when he recorded a 3.34 ERA/3.86 FIP with 10.85 K/9 and 3.52 BB/9 across 151 innings. As a pre-arbitration player, though, Flaherty won’t earn a salary commensurate with his 2018 production. The Cardinals renewed Flaherty for just over the $555K minimum – $562,100 – after they were unable to reach an agreement with him, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reports. The club first offered Flaherty $572,100, but he wasn’t willing to accept that sum, per Goold, who writes that the team determines a pre-arb player’s worth with “essentially a weighted Wins Above Replacement that takes into account service time.” Flaherty racked up 2.6 WAR in 2018, while reliever Jordan Hicks – who also wasn’t able to agree to a 2019 salary with the Cardinals – totaled 0.3. Hicks, like Flaherty, will earn less this year than the team initially offered him, though it’s unclear exactly how much he’ll make, per Goold. While neither player harbors ill feelings against the Cardinals, Flaherty contends that “the system as a whole is not great.” It’s hard to argue with him, especially given that reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell is also in line for a near-minimum salary this season.
- Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco is making notable progress as he recovers from September shoulder surgery and could return by May, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Polanco’s able to hit without restrictions, and he has progressed to throwing from 120 feet on back-to-back days. The injury to Polanco forced the Pirates to find fallback options in free agency over the winter, when they signed Lonnie Chisenhall to a $2.75MM deal and added Melky Cabrera on a minor league pact.