The "Moose" on the move!
Mike Moustakas was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers by the Kansas City Royals late on July 27, 2018. The return was outfielder Brett Phillips and right-handed pitcher Jorge Lopez. What's interesting about the return is unlike many other rental trades, these are not minor leaguers with upside, but rather once highly-thought of prospects that have already graduated to the Major League level. Of course, neither Phillips or Lopez has lived up to their billing.
The "Moose" has had a fairly good season for the Royals, even though he has a rather ugly batting average and an on-base percentage around .300. His power output is about what we've come to expect and his defense at third base is solid if not spectacular. His baserunning has been dismal, but not unexpected. But, on only a $5.5 million contract for the season, plus a $1 million buyout on a mutual option that will quite likely be declined by the player, the Brewers are assuming minimal financial risk.
BUT, don't the Brewers have a third baseman?
Before we get to the return for the Royals, which is quite interesting itself, let's talk about the implications of the Brewers acquiring Moustakas. The power of Moose's bat is quite welcome. The issue is that the Brewers already have a fine third baseman in Travis Shaw. Of course, Shaw can reliably handle first base as well, but the Brewers have a fine first baseman already in Jesus Aguilar. So, where do all the pieces fit?
The trouble with the Brewers is second base. They've gotten well-below average production from the position in 2018, with Jonathan Villar leading the way as a below-average hitter. But it's highly unlikely you would see Moose playing second base. That leaves only Travis Shaw to be on the move to the keystone. While Shaw isn't your typical second baseman, he's shown defensive versatility in the past. So, we'll see how the Brewers' creativity works out. As a team trying to win the National League Central, solidifying their power output at the cost of a few potential runs on defense seems like a good trade-off, especially as Moose is fine at the hot corner.
We'll see how Shaw actually fares at second for the rest of 2018. But, on paper, this is a move the Brewers really needed to make.
What About the Guys the Royals Got?
Once a top prospect, Brett Phillips did fine in his first MLB action in 2017. But in 2018, he's struggled. He's even been below average at AAA with the bat. He's fine defensively, though, actually above-average. He had 8 Defensive Runs Saved in only about 200 innings in the outfield in 2017, and 2 DRS in only 42 innings in 2018. So, if he hits anywhere near league average, he's going to be a useful outfielder for the Royals. He's still only 24 and has years of control left.
Jorge Lopez has shown potential in the past, although like Phillips, he's had a down 2018 with only a few appearances in the Majors. But this is a guy who throws in the mid-90's with his fastball, has a good curveball, and a serviceable change-up. Whether he becomes a fourth or fifth starter or just a middle reliever for the Royals remains to be seen, but he needs to get the walks under control.
Really, if the Royals end up with a fourth outfielder and a middle reliever for two months of Moustakas, they made out pretty well. The Moose gets to be in a pennant race and potentially set himself up for a nice contract in the offseason.
For the Royals, they shed a few dollars in payroll and receive two players that can play on the Major League team right now. Phillips could still be a starting outfielder and Jorge Lopez could still be a useful pitcher for them. The Brewers weren't really going to miss them, but when you're a team that's doing as poorly as the Royals, any controllable reinforcements are always welcome.