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Moustakas makes sense for the Yankees

Last week on the Bronx Beat podcast, I expressed that I’d rather the Yankees sign Mike Moustakas to a one-year deal than Todd Frazier. Ever since that comment, I’ve been thinking over the one thing I said why I’d sign Moose: because he’s a left-handed bat in an overloaded right-handed lineup.

Baseball pundits always preach about lineups needing to have balance. Lefty-dominated lineups have a field day against right-handed pitchers but struggle against left-handed pitchers. The same might not be true about right-handed dominated lineups — something that I’ll explore in the future. Let’s choose, for the moment, to still accept the premise that the Yankees want to eschew from an unbalanced lineup.

With that in mind, there are two reasons why I’d go Moustakas over Frazier, and one that favors the latter over the former.

Career-wise, Moustakas has 448 PAs less than Frazier. Frazier also has a better triple-slash line than Moustakas: .245/.321/.459 (.279 TAv) vs. .251/.308/.425 (.258 TAv). With those numbers, adding Frazier to the lineup makes the Yankees even scarier than they already are. But the difference isn’t as substantial as it seems at first glance. Just last season, Frazier was less valuable than Moustakas — .222/.365/.423 (.268 TAv)* vs. .272/.314/.521 (.275 TAv). If we’re looking at career numbers, Frazier makes sense, but if we look at recent performance, I still feel more inclined towards signing Moustakas.

*That’s in 241 PA with the Yankees. With the White Sox, his line was .207/.322/.432 (.267 TAv).

Now, if we look at defense and payroll, Moustakas makes even more sense.

Though Frazier may have Moustakas beat in most offensive categories, defense is a whole other ball game. Moustakas’ glove work has produced a career 33.2 FRAA to Frazier’s -3.6. Just right there, Moustakas is a better career defender at third base than Frazier is. But, again, that’s over their careers. We must also look at their most recent performance to balance things out. In 2017, Frazier was better defensively than Moustakas (1.0 FRAA vs. -7.4).  2017 was a career-low for Moustakas, perhaps attributed to some lingering effect from his injury. In the long run (and over this offseason), Moustakas may be conditioning himself and recovering from any possible ailments and might come back better off in 2018. Looking at his career numbers, that’s a gamble I’d be more than willing to take.

Finally, there’s payroll. The Yankees are reportedly trying to get under the luxury tax in order to be big spenders in the 2018 free agency sweepstakes. With that in mind, Moustakas being the younger, least valuable player (as he is perceived) may mean a lower contract. Moustakas currently needs a place where he can prove he is one of the game’s best third basemen. As such, he might be willing to take a cheap, one-year contract to play in one of the country’s biggest media markets, showcasing himself to teams that may not be willing to spend big on Machado or Donaldson.

With that in mind, even though Frazier may take a one-year home team discount contract to play for the Yankees in 2017, Moustakas might be even cheaper (I wager somewhere between $5-8 million on a one year contract).

Should Moose opt to sign with the Yankees, he’d be in line for a small payroll but the chance to play on one of the biggest stages in the world and play for a team capable of reaching the World Series. Taking a short contract while aiming for a bigger payday in the future would put both Moustakas and the Yankees in a win-win situation for 2018 and beyond.

Photo credit: Dan Hamilton / USA TODAY Sports

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