Posted on March 9, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Mike Moustakas

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Few players were victimized by the historically slow free agent market than third baseman Mike Moustakas. But with three weeks left until opening day, Mike Moustakas has found a home. Well, he’s actually just returning to his old home. Moustakas has struck a deal to return to the Kansas City Royals. The two sides have agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million plus incentives. There is a mutual option for the 2019 season worth $15 million. Moustakas could make as much as $22.7 million over the next two seasons.

The deal is a far cry from what Moustakas was expecting at the start of the offseason. He was reportedly hoping for a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $75 million. In November he turned down a $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Royals, a move that could end up costing him millions. Of course, Moustakas could never have foreseen how tepid the free-agent market would be for his services.

The fact that Moustakas turned down a qualifying offer may have hurt him. Any team other than the Royals that signed Moustakas would have had to give up a draft pick or lose international bonus money. There was even speculation in recent days that he wouldn’t sign until after the draft in June when teams would no longer have to give up a pick.

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In the end, Moustakas took a one-year pillow contract to return to Kansas City. There’s a chance the 29-year old slugger could find himself back on the open market next winter. Considering the lack of interest in him, one wonders if he and the Royals may pursue a team-friendly long-term deal in order to remain in Kansas City rather than take his chances on the free agent market again.

For the Royals, it was tough to turn down to a reunion with Moustakas at a base salary of $6.5 million. However, his return midway through spring training does throw a wrench into their plans. Cheslor Cuthbert has been penciled in as the team’s primary third baseman this year. Cuthbert struggled last year but proved to be a solid fill-in when Moustakas missed most of 2016 with a torn ACL. The Royals could have a problem getting Cuthbert regular at-bats.

It’s possible for either Cuthbert or Moustakas to spend time as the team’s DH. However, the Royals were planning on Jorge Soler getting most of his at-bats in that spot. Soler, of course, is a viable corner outfielder. But playing Soler in the outfield would create a logjam out there. Alex Gordon will play virtually every day in left field. That would leave two spots for Soler, Paulo Orlando, Jorge Bonifacio, and recently signed free agent Jon Jay.

How the Royals allocate playing time at DH and the outfield with Moustakas once again entrenched at third base remains to be seen. Nevertheless, re-signing Moustakas undoubtedly makes the team better. With Moustakas, Lucas Duda, and Salvador Perez, the Royals have plenty of power in the middle of their lineup. They still have the look of a team that is starting to rebuild. But in the meantime, the return of Moustakas should help them put a competitive team on the field.

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