11:00am: Moore is guaranteed $3.5MM on a one-year deal with the Hawks and can earn an additional $2.5MM via incentives, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).
The 30-year-old Moore appeared in just two games with the Tigers in 2019 before suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee which required surgery and ultimately knocked him out for the remainder of the year. A move to Japan is at least somewhat of a surprise for Moore — a formerly elite prospect who tossed 10 shutout innings with a 9-to-1 K/BB ratio and strong velocity (93.0 mph average fastball) in his tiny sample of 10 innings prior to last April’s injury.
Back in 2012, Moore was considered one of baseball’s three best prospects alongside Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. He may not quite have lived up to that sky-high billing early on, but Moore’s first 347 innings in the big leagues resulted in a 3.53 ERA with nearly a strikeout per frame. At the very least, he looked like a quality mid-rotation presence for the Rays, who selected him in the eighth round of the 2007 draft. And given that those numbers were compiled through his age-25 season, there was certainly some promise of a further breakout as he entered his prime years. Moore did, after all, finish ninth in AL Cy Young voting in an All-Star 2013 season that saw him toss 150 1/3 innings of 3.29 ERA ball.
Unfortunately for Moore, he suffered a torn UCL in 2014 that cost him most of that season and most of the 2015 campaign. He posted one solid, albeit unspectacular season upon returning from that injury before his struggles truly escalated; Moore logged a combined 5.99 ERA in 276 1/3 innings with 7.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 between the Giants and Rangers from 2017-18.
In spite of that rough two-year patch, however, he was still able to land a one-year, $2.5MM pact with the Tigers last winter. Given his relative youth — he’ll turn 31 in June — and the fact that his velocity in two starts this past season was higher than it had been since 2012, Moore seemed like a reasonable low-risk rebound candidate this winter.
However, the interest overseas clearly produced a better offer than any MLB club was willing to put forth, so Moore will become the latest in an increasing number of players to look to bolster their stock while playing abroad. He’s a higher-profile name than most who wind up signing in NPB or the Korea Baseball Organization, but that only adds to the level of intrigue. It’s easy to envision that with a strong showing for the Hawks, Moore could reemerge as a coveted rotation option for Major League teams once he returns to the open market.