The Hot Stove has been about as productive as the Blackhawks’ power play this winter, which is boring and not fun. Now that the Super Bowl is in the books, baseball is on the brain and it’s time to get some free agents putting pen to paper.
Which is why the White Sox make an offer to free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas.
If you Google his name, you’ll find a laundry list of articles that would lead you to believe Moustakas is in his mid-30s looking for one last go. Everything from him possibly having to settle for a one-year deal to him moving to left field, it’s amazing how this winter of boredom has taken away from how good some still available free agents were last season.
Moustakas won’t turn 30 until Sept. 11 and is coming off a big season. He hit 38 home runs and drove in 85 – both career highs – but is coming off a less-than-stellar season defensively. Health played a role there, but there’s no question he’s a very good third baseman who should be looking at better options than one-year contracts of possible position changes.
And Sox fans are too aware of his power – they were his number one home run victim this year; Moustakas took Sox pitching deep more times (six) than any other team last year. Moustakas had an OPS of .872 at Guaranteed Rate Park last year and his 36 at bats in Chicago were his most outside of his home park.
To be clear: I am not advocating a long-term blockbuster contract for Moustakas. But given the limited options he apparently has right now, the Sox shouldn’t have to commit six or seven years to the player. If the other team most intrigued by Moustakas is the Yankees, he isn’t getting more than two years because of the prospects they have coming (an issue for the Sox as well but I’ll address that in a moment). And if money is the problem… the Sox aren’t spending much this year or next year (another issue I’ll address).
The White Sox should offer Moustakas $54M over three years ($18M per) with incentives that could make it worth as much as $60M. If the Sox want to protect themselves against a Burger bust, they could throw a club option on the back for a fourth season as well.
The Sox need a left-handed bat – desperately. Jose Abreu is right-handed. So is Avi Garcia. So is Welington Castillo. So is Tim Anderson. Yoan Moncada is the most impactful batter in the Sox projected 2018 lineup who bats left-handed, and he’s a switch-hitter. Most of the Sox top prospects hit right-handed as well; Eloy Jimenez, Jake Burger and Luis Robert are righties, while catching prospect Zack Collins is a lefty.
There are a couple strong arguments against Moustakas to the South Side, but they both have solid rebuttals.
The Sox shouldn’t spend on a third baseman because they want Manny Machado.
First, Machado has been clear that he wants to play shortstop (buh bye, Mr. Anderson). So we’ll punt the positional issue immediately. But if spending money is the biggest concern because they need room/money to spend on Machado, keep in mind that James Shields’ $21M comes off the books in nine months. And the White Sox have a maximum total of only $30.6M committed for 2019 right now (yes, there are arbitration cases to deal with and yes, Jose Abreu isn’t in that number but come on!).
Point being, if the White Sox want Machado and they’re truly going all-in, they should have plenty of money laying around to make that happen and Machado isn’t going to play third anyway.
And having a big bat in the middle of the order who’s left-handed like Moustakas would break up Machado and Abreu, both righties.
The Sox shouldn’t bring in a veteran third baseman and block Jake Burger.
Burger was the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft and there’s a lot to be excited about with his power potential. Baseball America ranked him the Sox’s #7 prospect heading into 2018, which says a lot considering how loaded the top of the Sox organization has become. He also cracked MLB.com’s top ten third baseman prospects this year at #10.
ChicagoNow’s FutureSox ranked Burger the #8 prospect in the Sox organization and noted that, while he has a ton of raw offensive ability, there are questions about his defense. Not only are there questions about his defense, but his timeline to the majors probably projects a 2020 call-up at best, meaning there are at least two full seasons between now and Burger showing up on the South Side.
Not everyone is waiting that long for other prospects – specifically some of the top tier pitchers in the organization and certainly not Jimenez – to appear in the majors. If the Sox think they can make a run at the postseason as soon as 2019, Burger isn’t helping them get there.
Burger might eventually become the everyday third baseman for the Sox. But for the next 3-4 years, Moustakas is the more impactful bat in the Major Leagues – and could help accelerate the Sox rise in the AL Central.