Free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas agreed to a one-year deal with the Kansas City Royals on Thursday, sources familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports. The deal includes a mutual second-year option.
The 29-year-old Moustakas, ranked seventh in Yahoo Sports’ Ultimate Free Agent Tracker, comes off a year in which he broke the Kansas City Royals’ single-season record for home runs with 38. Nevertheless, the market for his services cratered, as the free agent squeeze of the 2017-18 offseason and the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer left him with a guaranteed $6.5 million, about a third of what he could have received had he accepted the $17.4 million QO. Moustakas’ deal has a $5.5 million salary in 2018 with a potential $2.2 million in performance bonuses, and the mutual option – unlikely to be exercised – is for $15 million and includes a $1 million buyout.
Moustakas is the rare power hitter who rarely strikes out. Of the 41 batters who slugged at least 30 home runs last season, only five finished the year with fewer than 100 strikeouts: Joey Votto, Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo, Francisco Lindor and Moustakas. Add in Moustakas’ slightly above-average glove at third base, and he has the ability to add value in multiple areas.
While Moustakas’ weakness is clear – never has he walked more than 43 times in a season, and his career on-base percentage is .305 – the notion of him not receiving a multiyear deal at the beginning of the offseason was almost inconceivable. Kansas City, which had balked at bringing Moustakas back, recognized it was not going to reap a draft pick for him and took advantage of the depressed market to fill its third-base slot.
Moustakas’ emergence in 2015 followed a season in which he was sent to Triple-A because of his struggles. He made an All-Star team in ’15 after he committed himself to hitting the opposite way and away from shifts that exploited his natural pull tendencies. He was every bit as good in 2017 and broke Steve Balboni’s 32-year-old team record for home runs in a season.