The Brewers are reportedly the front-runners to sign free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, but they’re facing competition from at least one team. The Padres, who have prioritized finding a third baseman this offseason, are “going after” Moustakas, according to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com. San Diego first “checked in” on Moustakas earlier this winter, and Cassavell’s report indicates the club is legitimately in pursuit of the 30-year-old at this late stage of the offseason.
This is the second straight drawn-out trip to the open market for Moustakas, who was shockingly available until last March before re-signing with the Royals for a $6.5MM guarantee. While Moustakas entered last winter with designs on landing a lucrative multiyear deal, that was before the free-agent process became unkind to even the most proven veterans available. This is the second year in a row a slew of familiar names are unemployed as spring training approaches, and even elite free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado haven’t found deals to their liking yet. With that in mind, it’s not surprising Moustakas is still searching for a contract. Some of the teams that could sign Moustakas are likely awaiting Machado’s decision first, after all, and the former did turn in a 2018 showing which was almost identical to his 2017 performance.
Last year, in 152 games divided between the Royals and Brewers, Moustakas offered slightly above-average offensive numbers, hitting .251/.315/.459 (105 wRC+) with 28 home runs in 635 plate appearances. He paired that output with respectable defense at third, where he posted two DRS and a plus-one Ultimate Zone Rating, en route to 2.4 fWAR (he logged 2.1 fWAR in 598 PAs during the prior campaign).
Based on the production Moustakas has recorded in recent years and throughout most of his career, he’d give the Padres an average regular at third. Moustakas, then, is a far less compelling option than Machado – who has also drawn the Padres’ interest – but would nonetheless give the Friars a credible starter at the hot corner. It seems they’re lacking that at the moment, evidenced by the untested Ty France being their projected starter at the position, after waving goodbye to the unspectacular 2018 duo of Christian Villanueva and Cory Spangenberg earlier this offseason. While the Padres still have Wil Myers, who played 36 games at third last season, the team’s plan to shift him back to a full-time outfield role during the upcoming campaign remains intact, Cassavell hears. Likewise, big-hitting catcher prospect Francisco Mejia, who saw a bit of action at third while a member of Cleveland’s farm system, will not be a hot corner choice for San Diego, per Cassavell.
Should he sign with the Padres, Moustakas would reunite him with his friend, first baseman Eric Hosmer, as the two were teammates in Kansas City from 2011-17. However, if the Padres miss on Moustakas (not to mention Machado), they could turn their attention to another of the established third base possibilities still without jobs. Marwin Gonzalez – whom San Diego targeted earlier this winter – remains a free agent, as do Derek Dietrich, Logan Forsythe, Josh Harrison and ex-Padre Yangervis Solarte. Barring a trade, someone from that group may well end up in a Padres uniform before the season begins.