For Mike Moustakas, returning to the Milwaukee Brewers will be familiar territory—but it certainly won’t negate the potential for unfamiliarity.
What more can we say than that? OK, I’ll try.
Aside from Machado and deGrom, Brewers followers and faithful alike, I say that in the most literal of terms. Almost all those guys were mentioned in one day in Brewers rumors on social media. After last night’s proceedings, a 3-1 victory against Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants, David Stearns finalized a deal with the Kansas City Royals for third baseman Mike Moustakas, sending to Kansas City top prospects Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez.
The move gives the Brewers an extra starting-grade third baseman and a fourth lefty bat with pop to accompany Eric Thames, Travis Shaw and Christian Yelich. Shaw reportedly will move to second base, a position where Brewers have routinely underachieved. Social media reaction has been mixed. Amongst the BtB cooperative, the reactions have been mixed.
What do we do when we are caught between genuine, competing choices?
And now . . . let us go straight at our question. I have said, and now repeat it, that not only as a matter of fact do we find our passional nature influencing us in our opinions, but that there are some options between opinions in which this influence must be regarded both as an inevitable and as a lawful determinant of our choice.” William James, 1896
Moustakas is having a very Moustakas kind of year: .249/.309/.468 with 20 home runs, 21 doubles and a Ryan Braun-esque .247 BAbip. He doesn’t have a ton of plate discipline (30 BB/63 K), but it’s not Domingo Santana-grade deficient. Until today, he’s been trapped in the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium, in a division with sizable dimensions in all its parks. Moving to the NLC and its relatively cozy right-field porches might yield a low-key JD Martinez kind of situation.
Moose also has championship pedigree, but we said the same thing about Lorenzo Cain‘s return to Milwaukee: that experience of a pennant and world championship off Blue Ridge Cutoff would help a team without a lot of veteran, postseason experience. He adds more of that, but at this stage of the game, it’s hard to think that Stearns was trading predominantly for clubhouse presence.
So, I understand the kernel of Brewers Nation’s relative disimpression with the move. With Brent Suter down and a clear need at second, the Gausman/Schoop rumors that enjoyed an uptick Friday afternoon and evening made a lot of sense. Stearns using Machado talks as intelligence-gathering to see what the erratic Orioles organization might do against what they did with their superstar infielder seemed like a brilliant stroke of brinksmanship.
More to the point, I have a soft spot for that generation of Kansas City Brewers; Doug Melvin only gave them a full third of their championship-grade starting nine (Cain, Alcides Escobar, Nori Aoki), while Jake Odorizzi was a key component in the Royals garnering James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays; both of them, as you undoubtedly recall, were essential to their 2015 title. Latter-day Melvin was always more helpful to other teams than he was his own.
Now that we’ve come full circle, the hope is that what we have now is the Milwaukee Royals. And that is one reason why I will to believe that this is the right move for the Brewers.
And I get the questions surrounding Moustakas–none of this really seems like a David Stearns trade. Moustakas has never been one to hit for average (though he does hit to contact), he is certainly limited in the field (Shaw, being a good sport, is moving to second) and he’s neither particularly young nor controllable ( there is a mutual option for 2019; both parties are almost certainly going to pass that up.) He is, however, a good clubhouse guy and the temptation for lots of RF dingers has to be tantalizing for all involved parties.
Further, Stearns hasn’t blown a trade. He has the track record to justify and perhaps excuse a calculated gamble here at the deadline. Getting Joakim Soria for good, but inessential farmhands earlier this week was nothing but savvy. And in trading Phillips and Lopez, the only thing that gets hurt are Brewers’ fans sentiments toward a fantastic human being and tremendous clubhouse goofball (along with that Death Star superlaser for an arm.) It’s a solid value-based trade for a rental and Phillips gets his long-awaited chance to show what he can do unencumbered by a glut of organizational outfielders. There’s no reason to think Phillips can’t shine in Kansas City and can help a rebuilding team break their fall while becoming a doubles machine. Lopez, too, gets a chance to develop in a low-pressure environment; he still has good ceiling and profiles to be effective at the major league level.
Corey Ray made the leap this season, and he profiles to be major league-ready sooner than later. Braun is locked-in as a Brewers lifer. Cain and Yelich are here for the long haul. Phillips, as talented as he is, was due for a change of scenery and a chance to have the stage to himself.
Plainly put, with Moustakas, Brewers fans don’t know what they’re going to get. Advanced metrics seem to indicate that he’s been snakebitten with a moribund team and good opposing defense. His WAR, nonetheless, is trending toward the best it’s been since 2015, a season where he slashed .817 with 57 XBH and the Royals won it all. This would suggest a tendency to hit the accelerator when his teams are competitive, and the 2018 Brewers are nothing if not that.
If he’s also pulling something along the lines of fellow Royals predecessor Carlos Beltran and treating this like a contract year, more power to him. Remember, Beltran went from Kansas City to the Astros and put up video game numbers. Everybody wins if Moustakas outpaces, opts out and earns a big payday elsewhere. (Then again, that was supposed to happen last hot stove.)
In the absence of a clear choice one way or the other, it is acceptable to make the choice with your gut. I understand the consternation of those who don’t get the trade. With the data accessible to us, in a move more suited to William James than Bill, I choose to think this the right one.
Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.
If this is it for a chunk of the Kansas City Royals’ core, it’s the end of a fantastic era–one that a generation and a half of fans would’ve never expected.