The fact that Moustakas has been released was the expected outcome when he was sent into DFA limbo last month. He still has one year and $22MM remaining on his contract, which comes in the form of an $18MM salary and a $4MM buyout on a club option for 2024. Since Moustakas has been injured and/or underperforming for the past couple of seasons, no team was going to take that off Cincinnati’s hands.
Moustakas, now 34, parlayed a strong run of success with the Royals and Brewers into a four-year, $64MM deal with the Reds going into 2020. The first season of the deal went fine enough, as Moustakas hit .230/.331/.468 for a wRC+ of 105. However, the past two seasons have been disappointing, with Moustakas battling various injuries, including a heel contusion and a calf strain, and struggling to produce when on the field. He played just 62 games in 2021 and 78 in 2022, hitting a combined .211/.289/.356 for a wRC+ of 73.
With the Reds starting another rebuild recently, they will be focused on giving opportunities to younger players who can be part of the next competitive window. Jonathan India will get the bulk of playing time at second base while Spencer Steer should get an extended audition at third base. That nudged Moustakas out of his two primary positions. He’s also played a bit of first base, but the Reds will have Joey Votto there and Tyler Stephenson could also be in the mix to keep his bat in the lineup while Curt Casali and Luke Maile handle the catching duties. Given all that, they decided to let Moustakas move on and try to find an opportunity elsewhere.
Moustakas will now be free to sign with any team, with the Reds on the hook for his remaining salary. Any other club that signs him would only be responsible for the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the roster, with that amount being subtracted from what the Reds pay. A similar situation recently played out with Moose’s former teammate in Kansas City, as Eric Hosmer was released by the Red Sox and seems to be joining the Cubs. The Padres will still be on the hook for Hosmer’s salary, making it a fairly low-risk gamble for the Cubs. Moustakas will look for a similar opportunity, joining a free agent market that also includes infielders such as Josh Harrison, César Hernández and Brian Anderson.