A pair of signings on Friday loosened the lid on baseball’s gridlocked free-agent market and presented one interesting development in Kansas City. Mike Moustakas, the Royals’ starting third baseman and franchise record holder for home runs, will not return home to Los Angeles.
With Moustakas on the market and reportedly interested in a homecoming in Southern California, the Angels instead completed a deal for free-agent infielder Zack Cozart, signing the former Reds shortstop to a three-year, $38 million contract. Cozart will play third base and join an infield that now includes shortstop Andrelton Simmons and second baseman Ian Kinsler, acquired this week via trade. The additions of Cozart and Kinsler come on the heels of Los Angeles winning the sweepstakes for Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese star who will join their rotation and also see time at designated hitter.
Moustakas never publicly stated his desire to play near his childhood home. Yet with third baseman Justin Turner entrenched with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Angels were widely viewed as the most likely landing spot for Moustakas.
While the Angels’ signing of Cozart removed one possible suitor for Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer perhaps received some positive news on Friday when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal, according to multiple reports.
Santana spent the first eight seasons of his career in Cleveland, serving as the club’s primary first baseman after beginning his career as a catcher. He batted .259 with an .818 OPS and 23 homers in 2017.
Santana was widely viewed as the second-best free agent first baseman on the market behind Hosmer. Yet the Phillies were not thought to be suitors for Hosmer’s services, which could bode well for his market price.
Santana signing with the Boston Red Sox, for instance, would have removed one big-market team from the equation. The Red Sox, however, appear to still be interested in Hosmer and designated hitter J.D. Martinez, according to a recent report in the Boston Herald.
For now, the Royals remain interested in a reunion with Hosmer while mostly signaling a willingness to walk away from Moustakas as the club enters what could be a long rebuilding process.
That perhaps could change if Moustakas’s market craters. Yet the Royals view their next window to contend starting in three to four seasons, a timeline that does not quite match up with a long-term deal for Moustakas. The team is also seeking to cut payroll.
Moustakas, 28, posted an .835 OPS with 38 homers in 148 games last season. Hosmer, 27, set career highs with a .318 batting average and .882 OPS. The Royals finished 80-82.