In a Major League Baseball offseason with few impactful free agent signings, the past few days have been somewhat of a change of pace. News concerning three former MLB All-Stars grabbed the headlines, as Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez returned to their old stomping grounds (Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies, respectively) and catcher Jonathan Lucroy inked a contract with the Oakland Athletics.
The trio of signings were all one-year deals. Moustakas and Lucroy each signed $6.5 million contracts with their teams, while Gonzalez will earn $8 million in 2018.
On Moustakas: The third baseman is coming off a career year at the plate, most notably setting a franchise record for single-season home runs by a Royal with 39 bombs. The left-handed hitter fans call “Moose” set career highs in long balls, runs batted in (85), slugging percentage (.521), and OPS (.835) in 2017 in his contract year.
Still, the fan favorite’s overall value was minimal. His 1.8 wins above replacement was a steep drop from his last full season, 2015, during which he posted a 4.4 bWAR. An above-average bat is nothing when your glove is faulty; Moustakas is measurably one of the worst defensive third basemen in the sport.
While the lack of demand for a valuable lefty like Moustakas, 29, is pretty unusual, the Royals put themselves in good position with this deal. As core pieces like Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer departed in free agency, Kansas City looks primed for a full rebuild, and can trade Moustakas at the deadline for a decent haul of prospects and draft picks.
On Gonzalez: Outfielder Gonzalez, 32, remains one of the most enigmatic players in MLB. His hitting stats have been trending downward, as the former Most Valuable Player finalist slashed .262/.339/.423 in 2017 after a .298/.350/.505 season the prior year.
Far removed from hitting .336 and winning Gold Glove and Sliver Slugger awards, Gonzalez is looking to ride his smooth, left-handed swing into a baseball renaissance. To just be a solid middle-of-the-order presence and play decent defense after a severely poor year, then testing free agency again at the end of the season can and should be the goal for CarGo.
He has not reached 4.0 bWAR in four seasons, and last year he was actually costing his team wins (-0.2 bWAR). The Rockies can’t expect him to be a superstar again, but a good auxiliary piece to Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon will suffice.
On Lucroy: Once one of the premier catchers in baseball, both behind the plate and standing beside it, Lucroy, 31, has fallen off. The Athletics, though, might be the perfect team for him. He had a miserable 2017 by his standards, splitting time between the Texas Rangers and Rockies, slugging .265/.345/.371 with just six home runs (in two hitter’s parks, no less) over the year.
Still, Lucroy might still have something in him, and on a one-year, show-me deal, could make a splash for the Athletics. The two-time All-Star posted a bWAR of 6.7 (tremendous for a catcher, especially), in 2014, and though his 0.6 mark from 2017 is worrisome, he clearly has the ceiling of an elite catcher.
At best, Lucroy is a cheap, valuable mentor for a young A’s team who they can sell at the deadline for a decent package. At worst, he really didn’t cost anything to a team that doesn’t look like a contender just yet. It’s a win-win and a no-brainer for Oakland.