Now that the Royals have traded Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals in a surprisingly early deal of significance, the organization’s focus is shifting to Mike Moustakas, it seems. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports writes that Kansas City is now “looking to find takers” for the slugger, who burst out of the gates with a .301/.335/.569 slash through his first 194 plate appearances but has slumped to an ugly .219/.301/.375 batting line in the 146 PAs that have followed.
Moustakas is earning $6.5MM in 2018 and is still owed about $3.53MM of that sum through season’s end. While his contract technically contains a mutual option for the 2019 season, there’s no reason to think it’ll be exercised by both parties. It’s exceedingly rare to see both sides exercise a mutual option, and if Moustakas ends up playing well enough that a club wants him at the $15MM value of that option, he’ll very likely feel emboldened to go seek a multi-year deal, knowing that he cannot be saddled with the burden of a qualifying offer for a second time.
More out of Kansas City…
- The Royals’ return in the Herrera trade — third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, outfielder Blake Perkins and 17-year-old righty Yohanse Morel — has been regarded by many pundits as light, but GM Dayton Moore explained some of his thinking in an interview with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required). “The thing we knew about Perkins and Gutierrez is that they have a chance to be elite defenders,” Moore said of the two more advanced prospects he acquired. Moore said the team hopes to rebuild its roster around pitching and defense, and he likens the Herrera trade to the Zack Greinke blockbuster with the Brewers that brought Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi to Kansas City. Moore says that the organization viewed Cain and Escobar similarly — unsure how much they’d hit but confident they’d be premier defenders.
- The trade of Herrera and likely trade of Moustakas aren’t the only forward-looking moves in store for the Royals. Manager Ned Yost told reporters this week that Adalberto Mondesi will begin to start a game or two per week at shortstop in place of Alcides Escobar (link via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan). Escobar will see some time at third base, second base and even in center field, while Mondesi will see some time at second base as well. The move will allow the team to evaluate Mondesi as a potential building block, and as Yost points out, it could be beneficial to Escobar as well. “He’s at a point in his career now where it will increase his value if he can play multiple positions, especially center field, third base, second base and shortstop as he can,” said Yost. Indeed, with Escobar hitting just .202/.251/.286 as an impending free agent, it’d behoove him to demonstrate defensive aptitude at a variety of positions.
- Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star takes an excellent look at the early stages of the Royals’ rebuild, noting that it seems the organization is aiming for a fairly accelerated timeline. As evidence, Mellinger points to the slew of college arms the Royals took near the top of the draft as well as the fact that they targeted fairly advanced, defensive-minded prospects rather than lower-level talents with higher ceilings but more risk in the Herrera deal. Mellinger writes that part of the reason that the Royals aren’t likely to be open to a Salvador Perez trade is that they could be hopeful of being competitive again by the 2020 season, when Perez will still be under contract and will still be just 30 years of age.