Mike Moustakas: 2018 White Sox Third Baseman?

After many weeks of free agency rumors as cold as the Chicago weather recently, former MLB Executive Dan O’Dowd turned on the burners on MLB’s free agency hot stove this morning:

Mike Moustakas is the 28-year-old 3B of the Kansas City Royals, and this is his first test at free agency. MLB TradeRumors listed Moustakas as the 6th best available free agent this offseason, and predicted he would be given a contract of 5 years, worth $85 million. In this article, I examine whether or not this sort of a signing would be worth it for the White Sox.

Does this Make Sense for the White Sox?

Let’s play a game, shall we….

Below are two statistical lines from the age-28 season of two players. One of them is Mike Moustakas (his age-28 season was 2017). See if you could possibly guess the other player (HINT: they don’t play the same primary position):

Capture

You had a bit of an advantage if you follow me on Twitter, because the answer is there:

No, not Yolmer… that’s right, the other player listed is Adam Dunn.

Honestly, even when I first thought about comparing Moustakas to Adam Dunn, it did seem possibly a little far-fetched to me. Is it a perfect match of statistics? Obviously not. But after looking into the data, and specifically at their age-28 seasons, the comparison I was trying to make holds:

  1. Mike Moustakas is primarily a Home Run hitter… so is Adam Dunn. That can be seen in their home run numbers and their ISO values.
  2. However, if these guys aren’t hitting it out of the park, they struggle to hit their way on base. This can be seen in their below average BABIP numbers.
  3. Despite their home run values, they don’t add an enormous amount of value to the team. This can be seen in their career (and season) WAR values. Dunn struck out too much and was too average as a 1B on defense, while Moustakas is average at 3B, but doesn’t get on base at the same rate Dunn did.
  4. The White Sox ranked 25th in the MLB in OBP last season. Signing Moustakas and his career .305 OBP doesn’t help that.
  5. Conclusion: Mike Moustakas, generally speaking, is a discounted version of Adam Dunn. The difference is that the White Sox would have to pay a higher price than they did for Adam Dunn for a player of equal or lesser value in Moustakas.

None of these statistics tell me that Mike Moustakas is worth 5 years, $85 million to the White Sox – or to many teams at that price. Moustakas – being a Boras client – will no doubt benefit more than he probably should from being a home run hitter in an era that loves the home run ball. However, he shouldn’t be on the White Sox payroll next season if the price is near what MLB TradeRumors projects it to be; he doesn’t justify that sort of spending for a rebuilding team

Furthermore, one of the biggest problems with Moustakas for the rebuilding White Sox is this: Mike Moustakas rejected the qualifying offer the Royals extended him early in the offseason. This means that whichever team signs him will lose a draft pick, depending on their payroll and revenue sharing. Without getting too into the specifics, if the White Sox signed Moustakas, they would forfeit their second round pick (43rd overall) as well as forfeit $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money. For a rebuilding team, it does not make sense to give up draft picks. In addition, for a team like the White Sox that has been active in the international market, it does not make sense to give up more money.

How could this deal make sense for the White Sox? In order for that to happen, Moustakas would have to accept less money and a shorter contract; he isn’t meant to be the future on the South Side. Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to go higher than 3 years, $30 million. This sort of money would come with the hope that he can grow to become a more patient hitter and raise his walk rate considerably.

In reality, Moustakas is not the end game for the White Sox; we all know Manny Machado is. However, even if they can’t sign Machado, Nolan Arenado becomes available the offseason after next. Clearly, there are solutions in the future that don’t involve Moustakas; this isn’t even taking into consideration the possibility that Jake Burger remains at 3B despite everyone’s belief that he will move to 1B. For now, Yolmer Sanchez is doing serviceable work at 3B both offensively and defensively, even if he doesn’t hit for the same power Moustakas does. I’m all for flashy free agent signings when the time is right, but this one carries more risks than rewards for the rebuilding White Sox.

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