The Cincinnati Reds are making moves, and big ones at that. Jon Heyman of MLB Network was the first to report that the Reds have agreed to a deal with infielder Mike Moustakas. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the deal is a 4-year deal for $64M the now 31-year-old. That is easily the largest free agent contract ever handed out in free agency by the Reds, which was previously held by Francisco Cordero. Among the position player contracts it dwarfs the previous high, which went to Ryan Ludwick and was for all of $17M.

For the most part of his career, Mike Moustakas has played third base. In 2019 he slid over to second base 47 times for the Milwaukee Brewers. The assumption here is that he will take over at second base for the Reds. Cincinnati reportedly has a pretty good third baseman on the team already. Moustakas also has very limited time at first base – playing there briefly with Kansas City in 2018.

At the plate is where you’re going to reap the benefits of this deal. For his career, Moustakas is just a 101 OPS+ hitter – basically league average. But that is due to his big struggles in the first four seasons of his career. From 2011-2014 he hit just .236/.290/.379 with the Royals. In the five seasons since then he’s hit .264/.325/.491 and made three all-star teams. Last season with the Brewers he hit 30 doubles, a triple, and 35 home runs while posting an .845 OPS (114 OPS+).

Not everything is perfect and rosy with Mike Moustakas. He’s not exactly a guy who gets on base a lot. Last season he posted an on-base percentage over .320 for only the second time in his career when he walked 53 times and posted a .329 mark. That was a career high in walks for him. And while you can point to his .250 BABIP in 2019 as a reason to think he could improve, hold that thought because for his career, he’s always been a guy with a very low BABIP. Since 2013 he’s failed to post a BABIP over .263.

What Mike Moustakas does bring to the table is contact and power. He’s hit 38, 28, and 35 home runs in the last three seasons. The year before that he missed nearly the entire year. Along with that power comes a 16.2% strikeout rate. That’s much better than the league average mark. Among the Reds with at least 200 plate appearances last year (there were 13 of them), only Jose Iglesias, Jose Peraza, and Jesse Winker had better contact rates. Joey Votto was the next closest, and he struck out 20.2% of the time. Moustakas should improve the rate of contact on the team on an every day basis to go along with adding another legitimate power threat.

The move is certainly nothing less than the Reds trying to improve their offense, which was a real hurdle for them last season. Between the health of players, and under-performance of others, the team struggled to consistently put runs on the board. It’s tough to say what this will do for the defense, both in the short and long term. Mike Moustakas simply doesn’t have enough time at second base for the metrics to mean much. This is where your scouts are important. The Reds clearly feel the defense is good enough to make this work. With more strikeouts than ever, and more shifting than ever, raw defensive ability is less important than ever.

But this move doesn’t just change the infield. This move probably takes the Reds out of the market for an every day center fielder, too. Nick Senzel’s ability to play second base left open the option for the team to pursue another center fielder if the opportunity were there. With the signing of Moustakas, it seems that Cincinnati will stick with Senzel in center.

The Marcels projection system is the only one out right now that I’m aware of. Here’s the projection for Mike Moustakas:

PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG OPS
556 27 1 30 .255 .318 .492 .810

That would help the offense quite a bit. And it’s not likely that this will be the last move made by the Reds, either. They’ve been rumored to be looking all over the place – both for more offense and for more pitching. And they’ve got money to spend, and a farm system to trade from if needed.

Mike Moustakas Fangraph page link

Mike Moustakas Baseball Reference page link

Mike Moustakas Baseball Savant page link

Photo of Mike Moustakas by Ian D’Andrea. Photo has been modified slightly to fit the ratio of the site. License can be found here.

93 Responses

  1. RandyW

    Seems like an overpay for a guy that was forced to take a 1 year deal 2 seasons in a row.

    Reply
  2. CI3J

    Ehh….. I’m not really a fan of this one. Moose is already on the wrong side of 30 (31, will be 32 next September). I’m not sure how well that’s going to translate to playing defense at 2B, even if the article says defense matters less than ever.

    His power should play at GABP, provided he doesn’t hit a steep aging curve. If nothing else, he’s the desperately needed left handed power bat the Reds have been missing since the Bruce/Joey heydays.

    Well, we’ll see.

    Reply
    • VaRedsFan

      We need to stop pretending that 31 years old is such a bad thing. You know who the top 6 oldest roster were last year? Nationals, A’s, Astros, Cubs, Braves, Yankees.

      Reply
      • Ed

        100% agree

        Further- the clubhouse is young, Joey aside. We absolutely need a few vets to help establish a functional winning culture here. For the opposite- check out the pirates

  3. citizen54

    Pretty big overpay. He was projected to receive $13 million for 2.5 years.

    Reply
    • Michael Smith

      @citizen54 2.5 years? Was this a prison sentence?

      Reply
    • Optimist

      Hope this doesn’t signal a megadeal sending Suarez somewhere. OTOH, depends on the megadeal. Thor and Conforto?

      Reply
  4. KB_48

    Steamer has Moustakas projected at .260/.325/.499 with a 111 wRC+ and 2.8 WAR.

    Reply
  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Not quite the upside of OBP that I was hoping for, but still a definite upgrade from what we had at 2nd.

    I could still see us looking at Senzel at SS and getting a good OBP OF for CF. I don’t know of Senzel would like that, though. I think he would rather be able to stick to the position and be able to concentrat on his hitting. As far as I’m concerned, as long as he can stay healthy, play CF as long as you like.

    Reply
    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I just checked something. While playing 2nd, Moose did bat .273/.364/.565, an OPS of 120 or 149, if you consider relative to the player’s total OPS+ or the league’s position OPS+. Either way, if he can get anywhere near this for us, a definitely plus move for us.

      Reply
    • VaRedsFan

      You keep saying Senzel at SS….They looked at him there and said no. That ship has sailed. 99.9% chance that never will be an option.

      Reply
      • JON

        thank you!!!! SENZEL WILL NOT BE A SS!!!

    • earmbrister

      SS — “As far as (you’re) concerned, as long as (Senzel) can stay healthy, play CF as long as you like”.

      How many personalities do you have Sybil? You’ve been trying to move Senzel out of his CF position ALL OFF SEASON.

      Senzel has the most value right where he is. CENTERFIELD

      Reply
  6. Cbus

    Not loving this one but don’t hate it. Definitely upgrades the offense, but 2B you can typically find good production on the cheap and spend your money elsewhere. This also keeps Senzel in CF which I don’t love. Feels like there were better options out there to upgrade the offense but maybe not…

    Reply
    • Ed

      Woah! Here’s a weird excerpt from that article.

      “…Moustakas does most of his damage early in games. In fact 17 of his home runs in 2019 came in between the first and third innings. His slash line in the first through third innings is .300/.353/.632/.984 as compared to his seventh through ninth innings slash line of .224/.324/.441/.765.”

      Reply
      • Curt

        The part preceding that excerpt is also weird…

        “When matched up against power pitchers, classified as a pitcher in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks, Moustakas managed only a .197 batting average in 122 at bats. Another bummer stat is his .212 batting average in high leverage situations. An explanation for these low numbers is that Moustakas does most of his damage early in games…”

      • Big Ed

        Sometimes oddball splits are just oddball splits. I suppose it could indicate that Moose has trouble with real hard throwers, who are seen more frequently in late innings, or maybe he just faces a lot more lefties in the late innings. Heck, he could just be a morning person, and wanted to get into the Eastern time zone. But my guess is that it is just an oddball split.

        He would fit right in with last year’s Reds, who all hit like Stan Musial in the first inning and like Kurt Manwaring the rest of the game.

      • Ed

        Yup- that was absolutely the pattern last year. Here’s hoping they can score past the goddarn 1st inning next year

      • JB

        Big Ed why you picking on Kurt Manwaring? And where did that come from of all major leaguers? Lol

  7. Wes

    When you are critical of ownership remember this – reds had to have overpaid by some 50-100 percent to acquire moose. The only way big free agents will come to cincy is by overpaying them millions and millions. And All moves reds make are based out of that reality whether you accept or not. If reds had 64 mill for moose no doubt they had 73+ for grandal yet he like kuechel and others chose to play else where. So you do the best you can with what you have to work with and end up overpaying in contracts or prospects some times. Ownership isn’t doing too bad imo…

    Reply
    • citizen54

      I don’t mind the overpay as much as the number of years. He is probably going to be a 1.0-1.5 fWAR guy in his last two years. On the bright side, it’s not some trade where the Reds are overpaying in prospects for guys with one year of control left.

      Reply
    • BK

      Most of the FA signings have come in above predictions at both Fangraphs and MLB Trade Rumors. There is a scarcity of good bats available this year. Correlation doesn’t equal causality. Let’s see how the market plays out,

      Reply
    • Klugo

      I don’t get why Cincy has to overpay for offense. I understand that principle when it comes to pitching, but playing in Cincy should be a dream come true for guys at the plate.

      Reply
  8. AirborneJayJay

    That 4 years and $64MM is a bit steep. That Boras is a shark. But it really adds a LH power bat that is lacking.
    I read somewhere a couple of weeks ago that a few teams might look at Moustakas for LF. I wonder if the Reds are one of those? I guess we’ll find out their plans when they announce it when he signs in a day or two.
    Well that now is two major bats the Brewers have lost. The Reds are improved while a division rival is weaker. That works.

    Reply
    • Wes

      If he can play left that’s a game changer.

      Central is falling off steeply. Brewers may trade hader and wind up w a full rebuild like pirates. Cubs are in a bit of a purgatory it seems and cards overachieved last season. Central is ripe for the picking !

      Reply
    • BK

      If he can play either corner, it gives the Reds lots of options. I would think his 3B arm would work in RF. Aquino is no sure bet and Winker spends lots of time on the IL. Versatility is huge.

      Reply
  9. Ed

    I agree with the comments here that the Reds needed to overpay to bring him in. The window is open, so spend! I think another shortstop and outfield bats will make a big difference.

    Reply
  10. DocProc

    Would like this better for fewer years and less money.
    Would like this MUCH better if we land Didi too.

    Reply
  11. Sliotar

    Moustakas got the free agent deal he sought last winter and could not land.
    Reds choose to spend…right place, right time.

    In the 2022 season, at least 3/4 of the projected infield will be in age 30 season (one well beyond).

    Add Didi….all 4 will be age 30 and beyond.

    Add in Winker and this is going to be a strike’em out/hit’em out team, because team defense may not be that good.

    Reds clearly past Milwaukee in pecking order now…window is for sure open in 2020 and probably 2021.

    Going to be fun.

    Reply
  12. Hotto4Votto

    Overall I think there’s a lot to like about this signing. Definitely upgrades the offense, especially in the power department. A little surprised by the years but it’s probably what it took to sign him. A good sign that this FO is serious about committing money to upgrade.

    Not that the Reds would make this move, but wonder who’s more adept at playing 2B between Moose and Suarez.

    Reply
  13. Sliotar

    What does it say about the economics of baseball in 2019 that 2 of the top position players in MLB…arguably the 2 best, Trout and Yelich, have had their clubs choose not to surround them with talent in their prime?

    Especially…Yelich is on a below-market contract, and Trout was until this past season.

    Reply
  14. indydoug

    The Reds FO did what they had to do to bring in a much needed bat to play for the Reds–Overpay… and I’m Ok with that. Put him in #4 hole between Suarez and Aquino. Senzel , Votto ahead of them and then Winker, Galvis Barnhart/Casali at 6-8. L/R alternating and alot better lineup.

    Reply
  15. Tom Mitsoff

    This is as huge of an upgrade as is possible at second base. Defense might suffer a tad, but #getthehitting is the objective of this off-season. Who wouldn’t prefer Moustakas over Peraza at second base? To get any of these impact bats, the Reds had to be ready to overpay. While they might have done so, it adds $16 million to a 2020 salary budget that has been estimated at between a $30 to $35 million increase. There is still money to spend for another impact bat or even pitcher if they can’t sign another bat. Hats off to the front office for being aggressive!

    Reply
    • G-Man

      +1…well said Tom!

      Here’s hoping that they now add Didi!

      Reply
    • Redsvol

      i second this comment. might be a little high but its still relatively short term contract. I’m hopeful Votto will sit more if he can’t improve 2019 results which should mean some starts at 1st base for Moose.

      Reply
  16. Matt WI

    I’d rather overpay in cash than prospects at this point. Perhaps one year too long in length, but in combo with non-tendering Peraza, the lineup is getting stronger.

    Reply
  17. Mark Moore

    I’m fine with this … to me it signals the FO is actually putting up rather than shutting up. Yes, a little long on the years and a bit of an overpay, but I’ve always liked Moose. D isn’t worse than what we had in Scooter and I see a better bat overall.

    Let’s see what comes next!

    Reply
  18. Wayne nabors

    Would moving suarez back to ss and moving senzel to 2nd and playing moose at 3rd be an option? Could then pick up an additional outfielder,I really don’t see it,but it would at least be intriguing

    Reply
    • Bigbill

      No. Suarez is at least 25lbs to big and has slowed down to be a SS. Plus he is at the edge of being a multi year all star at third. Why would you mess with that??

      Reply
  19. Colorado Red

    Was hoping they would get Vallar instead.
    Hope that is not out of the picture.

    Reply
  20. RedNat

    man, how baseball has changed since I was a kid! you can bat .255 and make 16 mil a year. but in all seriousness I like the move. like the Puig move last year it is getting the town interested in the reds again. hopefully attendance will continue to rise and we can get more of these type of free agent deals in the future!

    Reply
  21. Big Ed

    I like this, for several reasons. They needed some LH power, and he likely projects well in GABP. The price may be a hair steep, but it only runs through his age 34 season.

    The Reds also didn’t have to give up any prospects to fill a need. The system is down, due to graduation and to the Gray, Downs & Trammell swaps, but it still has some good pieces.

    It also indicates to me that they won’t go after Didi Gregorius. I see them using Galvis at shortstop in 2020, with the idea of Jose Garcia being ready in 2021 or mid-2022. Garcia was excellent at age 21 in the FSL, and slashed .378/.426/.571 in 98 ABs in August, with 7 SBs. Didi would want more than a year.

    It’s looking like a Blandino/VanMeter/Ervin/Jankowski/catcher bench.

    Reply
    • BK

      Well said. Hoping they bring in Villar next for SS. Garcia is on the horizon. We don’t need another low OBP guy in our lineup.

      Reply
  22. Steve Schoenbaechler

    For those who may be wondering about this contract, you can consider, if Scooter was still here, he may be getting this much if not more. So, frankly, I don’t consider this a bargain, but I don’t consider it a bad move financially at all.

    My only concern is the OBP output. But, from what I saw earlier, when he’s played 2nd, he seemed to be a much better hitter. Hopefully, that will carry over.

    Reply
  23. AirborneJayJay

    Moose to LF, Senzel at 2B, and that leaves working on a deal with the Dodgers for CF Joc Pederson and SS Corey Seager. That would be some lineup from 1 through 8.
    Would probably lose Raisel Iglesias and ??? to the Dodgers. Maybe they would take Schebler back. (Wink)

    Reply
    • earmbrister

      No, no, no. Moustakas has NEVER PLAYED OF in MLB. Senzel needs to stay in CF – Period.

      While your dreaming, you might as well add Mike Trout.

      Reply
  24. gusnwally

    I said to a buddy a week or so ago. f we get Moose for 2nd base and a solid RP I am ready to start the season. I think DeLeon might be the RP. And I love Moose for the everyday lineup and even tho it’s a little more moolah and a year longer than I thought. Let’s play ball, I am so ready.

    Reply
  25. Redgoggles

    Can he backup 3B/1B too? Seems like more positives. It doesn’t deplete the farm or big league roster, which conceptually deepens our team over the long haul all the while weakening a team in our division. I would have been more juiced with Grandal (due to positional upgrade), but I’m happy to have MOOOOOOSE! The new BRUUUUUCE?!?!?!

    Reply
  26. Jeffrey Millsaps

    I like the signing!! Was just wondering though, didn’t Suarez play SS early in his career? Maybe he could play SS & Moose at 3rd. You could play Senzel at 2nd & still try to find an everyday CF. Just a thought. Either way good job Reds!

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      The days of Suarez playing shortstop are long, long gone.

      Reply
  27. Stock

    I hate this. A waste of money. Scooter would have been so much cheaper and was so much better in 2017 and 2018. Moustaskas WAR in 2017-2018 was 4.4. Scooter’s WAR in 2017-2018 was 6.7. In fact Scooter’s 2018 WAR of 4.5 was better than Moustakas for 2017 and 2018 combined. Scooter is 2 years younger than Moustakas. He could have been signed for 2 years at a fraction of the price.

    Instead they overpay for a 31 year old who will probably struggle defensively at 2B and eventually have to move to LF.

    Reply
    • Not Corky Miller

      I totally agree 100%. Would have rather used that on pitching. We can get hitters to come to GABP on prove it deals… pitchers would require an overpay.

      Scooter, Wheeler, and Avi Garcia or a non- tendered OF would have been better IMO.

      Reply
    • Matt WI

      It is much more likely that Scooter is never going to be able to do what he did. The Reds caught lightening in a bottle and that injury let it out. I know everybody loves a scrappy player, but Scooter isn’t coming back, ya’ll. He just isn’t. The Reds got better today than they were when the season ended. Moose is likely to kill it GABP.

      Reply
    • FreeHouse

      I agree, Castellanos should be the Reds main target. Bob already opened up the checkbook, might as well keep spending!

      Reply
      • Not Corky Miller

        Agreed. At the end of the day it’s not my money, but if Moose was their one big off season move, then they didn’t move the needle that much. Going to be a 3rd place team.

        Now if Castellanos is here, with Moose, plus they come from division rivals…. now we’re talking.

  28. Redsfan4life

    Hopefully they pass on Didi.
    Go after Corey Dickerson and Villar and another reliver.
    I just think price for Didi would be high.

    Reply
  29. AirborneJayJay

    Villar to the Marlins. So, scratch that idea.
    I chuckle at those who mention that bringing Scooter back would have been a better move than Moustakas. When Scooter could hit, I would cringe at any relay throw to home plate or 3B he would make. Weak and often inaccurate throws would let many a run score. Moustakas is much better in the field than Scooter and will have better results at the plate. Scooter isn’t even worthy of a ML contract. He’ll be lucky to get a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He’ll probably be over in Japan next season. Stop the Scooter non-sense.

    Reply
    • Not Corky Miller

      So you’ll be overpaying for a 35 year old 2nd baseman with a career .310 obp because he can hit the relay man?
      Talk about nonsense.
      The point was the money could be better allocated.

      Reply
    • Curt

      And to think that just a year ago, holding on to Scooter was important enough to block the Reds top prospect (again) from settling in at his natural place on the dirt. The word ‘shortsighted’ comes to mind, ‘backwards’ even. How quickly things change. (or don’t)

      Reply
    • Stock

      Statistically Scooter was a much better defensive player at 2B than Moose was at 3B in 2018 +2019 combined. But don’t let facts get in the way of making a point.

      Reply
  30. MBS

    I like it! The biggest difference between the 18 and 19 Reds offense, was losing Scooter. He’s another lefty, that will play 2B, and he has even more pop than Gennett. Assuming someone else doesn’t come into the equation, Suarez, Moustakas, and Aquino will make a solid 3, 4, 5. Then you have Votto and Winker bookending these guys with the 2, 6. I hope they add another offensive piece or 2, but it’s a good start.

    Reply
  31. NC Red

    MLB Radio said today that they thought Moose was going to the Cards. Glad to see maybe we foiled them. Yes, we overpaid, but we had too. The team is better. Go Reds!

    Reply
  32. Matt WI

    Also, we get to yell (and/or type) Mooooooose! Finally a cure for Bruuuuuuuuce withdrawal. All kinds of good stuff, folks.

    Reply
  33. Curt

    Hard to judge this signing until the rest of the off-season plays itself out. Steep price to pay no doubt and how the $ effects the team may take even longer to know, so mute point for now. I get the sense though that the Reds were going to sign him no matter what position he played which strikes me as a bit random and “make-it-up-as-you-go” but ok, maybe there’s a plan we don’t know about, ideally one that’s a little more sophisticated than just “get the hitting”. We shall see…

    Ok, so a bat, great, though it’s not exactly the kind of hitter that’s been generally agreed to be the type we need, OBP etc. I find it odd that they’d get a 3B who’s new to 2B (38 of his 143 games, 105 at 3b). So another guy at a new position, ok. Not that big of a deal, except that it’s another infielder that’s not a SS and I don’t believe the Moose plays the outfield or hasn’t yet at least, so the two areas that lack depth SS and CF/OF remain unaddressed. Maybe there’s something we don’t know about, but we now have 5 different options at 2B and 3B and defensively Moose isn’t at the top for either.

    Hard to tell what the plan is here, I have my suspicions. It’s nice to see the team spending some money but without seeing the bigger picture, not sure how it can be said that it’s a good signing or not. It’s splashy yes. Again, we shall see…

    Reply
  34. stoney

    Most likely overpaid. Good for the Reds! Nice to have a veteran who knows what it takes to win and can actually hit the ball. Reds are showing they are at least attempting to upgrade the offense which is much needed! Hopefully they are not done.

    Reply
    • Ed

      I absolutely agree that now is the time to sign Wheeler, deal Bauer and Winker for an outfielder.

      Reply
  35. Mark

    Get castellanos for LF trade winker and Bauer for SS Seager sign wheeler to replace Bauer.

    Reply
    • G-Man

      I like your thinking, but do the Reds have enough money to sign both Castellanos and also Wheeler?

      Reply
  36. Bigbill

    We just added 3 1/2 wins over our 0 WAR cumulative second baseman of last year. This is a very solid with an enormous upside chance with the way the ball flys out of GABP. I would like to see an outfielder that can allow us to protect Aquino in case he is a flash in the pan and would like to see one or LF reliever for the bullpen. Get that done and you look like a potential playoff team. Go add a Zach Wheeler or someone like him after that and you are a favorite for the playoffs.

    Reply
    • CP

      I think that OF might already be in house in JVM. JVM can obviously play a good 2B to fill in when Moose covers and off day at 3B/1B for Sauarez/Votto, but I think he could play a passable corner OF if need be. I love JVM’s approach and he has plenty of power. I would love to see the former AAA roommates Senzel & JVM manning the OF next to each other for years to come. Though I wouldn’t be mad to see Aquino prove his worth and just mash the living heck out of the ball for the next 5 years at Cincy.

      Reply
  37. NC Red

    Cubs just dumped Addison Russell because they did not want to go into arbitration with him. We would need to vet him, but could be an upgrade at SS. Good glove/arm and power. If he has cleaned up his life, might be worth a try. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      Absolutely not. I don’t care if he was allowed to play for free. No. One hundred times no.

      Reply
  38. Hanawi

    It’s a fine deal. Probably an overpay but glad to see the Reds splash some money around in free agency. Somewhat ironic that they spent big on a 2nd baseman as two years it was the deepest position on the farm with Scooter, Senzel, India, and Shed Long. Don’t think the Reds have much faith in India at the moment, especially after a pretty rough AFL.

    Reply
    • Curt

      To be accurate, Moustakas is a 3rd baseman who only started playing 2nd in Spring Training with the Brewers last year. He played 38 games there before they moved him back to 3rd (105 games) because of Travis Shaw’s struggles. I think that’s the extent of his time at 2B in the MLB.

      Reply
      • Hanawi

        Right, but he isn’t playing 3rd for the Reds.

      • Curt

        As it stands Hanawi, that would also be accurate 🙂

  39. Reddawg12

    Assuming there are more moves to come, I like this signing. Yes, it’s a lot of money and ideally only would be have been for 3 years. But overpaying might be what it takes for a team like the Reds (who have been terrible the last 5 season) to get quality free agents. Also, Brewers fans on Twitter seem to be super bummed about losing him, so that’s something.

    Reply

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