According to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden, the Milwaukee Brewers are reportedly interested in free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. While Moustakas isn’t a clear upgrade over current Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw, acquiring him could create an interesting scenario in Milwaukee. Here’s Bowden’s tweet:
#Brewers continue to be “in” on RHP Jake Arrieta & also 3B Michael Moustakas with the idea that if they signed Moustakas they could trade Travis Shaw to NYY, ATL or NYM according to a club source.
— Jim Bowden🌟🎤 (@JimBowdenGM) January 15, 2018
Mike Moustakas is coming off of a career year with the Kansas City Royals, and his powerful bat would surely be welcomed to a Brewers lineup that was very “middle-of-the-pack” in 2017, resulting in the team narrowly missing the playoffs in what was the club’s best season since 2011.
An Impact Bat
There’s no doubt that Mike Moustakas would be a great addition in Milwaukee. His 38 home runs in 2017 were a career best, and unlike most power-heavy bats, Moose struck out in a relatively low 15.7 percent of his plate appearances. In fact, the only MLB players to hit 30 or more home runs and post a strikeout rate lower that Moustakas’ in 2017 were Nolan Arenado, Joey Votto, Francisco Lindor, and Anthony Rizzo. I’d say that’s pretty good company for the 29-year-old third baseman to be in.
Moreover, Mike Moustakas had a pretty weird 2017 season, aside from his inflated power numbers. He saw his defense take an unexpected tumble (that I expect to return back to form in 2018), and Moustakas was the only player in the MLB whose BABip (.263) was lower than his actual average (.272) for the season. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll repeat this feat, though, which is a good sign for teams looking to invest in the third baseman.
A more practical season to expect from Moustakas may be something close to his 2015 season, in which he slashed .284/.348/.470 with 34 doubles, a triple, and 22 homers with a much more reasonable .294 BABip. However, with his spike in home runs in 2017, it may be reasonable to expect Moustakas to hit closer to 30 home runs. Regardless, if Moustakas is able to match, or perhaps eclipse, the 4.4 WAR he was worth in 2015, he’ll be well worth whatever money Milwaukee throws at him.
His bat is not the only reason the Brewers should be interested in signing him, though.
Shaw Would Be Tradeable
After acquiring a third baseman in Mike Moustakas, the Milwaukee Brewers would most likely have no need for Travis Shaw, who had a monster 2017 season, slashing .273/.349/.513 with 34 doubles, a triple, 31 home runs, and 101 RBI. Shaw was acquired from the Boston Red Sox a little over a year ago, but he could soon be on the move again if Milwaukee can lock up Moustakas.
If the Brewers were to trade Shaw, they’d likely be trying to get a starting pitcher in return to solidify their starting rotation, which posted a 4.10 ERA over the course of the 2017 season, ranked 10th in the MLB. While this number is not awful, it can certainly be improved and would help the Brewers improve their 2017 total of 86 wins. Shaw has four years of team control left, so he could grab a nice return on the trade market right now.
As mentioned by Jim Bowden, Milwaukee would likely be looking to shop Shaw to the Yankees, Mets, or Braves. With the Yankees still trying to acquire another starting pitcher, it would be silly for them to give one up right now, so they can probably be ruled out of the equation. The Mets would probably only be looking to shop Matt Harvey, and after he’s posted a 5.78 ERA in 36 games (35 starts) over the past two seasons, it’s safe to say that Milwaukee wants no part in that mess.
The one team from Bowden’s list that does make sense is the Atlanta Braves. With several top-tier pitching prospects on the cusp of making their major league debut, as well as the acquisition of Brandon McCarthy this offseason, the Braves are in a great position to shop Julio Teheran and are in dire need of an everyday third baseman. Teheran had a down year in 2017, but a 3.15 ERA in 15 road starts is a sign that a change of scenery may benefit him greatly.
The return for Travis Shaw alone, in my opinion, would be Julio Teheran and top-30 prospect, but if the Brewers included a prospect of their own in the deal, they may be able to snag a bullpen guy like Jose Ramirez from the Braves.
What Should Milwaukee Do?
Given that the Milwaukee Brewers were one solid starting pitcher away from making the playoffs in 2017, signing Mike Moustakas and trading Travis Shaw for a starter would be optimal. However, Moustakas is going to want a pretty penny this offseason, and there’s no guarantee that Milwaukee will want to pay him what he believes he’s worth for the next few years.
If Moustakas can be had for somewhere between $15 million and $18 million per year, the Brewers absolutely have to pull the trigger and sign him. If he wants more, they may need to consider other options at third base moving forward, or simply stick with Shaw and sign a free agent starter like Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb this offseason