2. Mike Moustakas, Reds infielder
Moving on from Mike Moustakas this winter is crucial to the Cincinnati Reds roster construction heading into the 2022. Injuries have robbed Moose of playing time during his brief career in the Queen City, but the salary he’s owned has not matched the production on the field, and Nick Krall must find a trade partner for Moustakas this offseason.
Moose was the biggest free agent signing for Cincinnati prior to the 2020 season. The Reds brought in Moose with the idea of playing the veteran at second base. While that worked out okay during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the decision was made to move Moustakas back to his former home at third base.
Before the start of the 2021 season, David Bell shifted Moose back to third base, inserted Eugenio Suárez as the team’s starting shortstop, and started rookie infielder Jonathan India at second base. The idea, while flawed, got India’s bat into the starting lineup while keeping the big boppers (Moustakas and Suárez) in the lineup.
As it turned out, India flourished in his role at the keystone and will likely take home NL Rookie of the Year honors. Unfortunately, Suárez couldn’t handle the shift back to his original position and has put up horrible numbers at the plate this season. Mike Moustakas, meanwhile, struggled to stay healthy, landed on the IL multiple times, and slashed just .208/.282/.372.
Going into next season, the right side of the infield is set with India and Joey Votto. The left side of the infield, however, is a giant question mark. While it looks as if Jose Barrero will be given every opportunity to steal the starting shortstop job away from Kyle Farmer, the former Georgia Bulldog won’t give up that spot easily.
At third base, you have a bottleneck with the likes of Suárez, Moustakas, the aforementioned Farmer, and I’d even throw Max Schrock’s name in the mix. Cincinnati has too many players who can field the hot corner, and it would stand to reason that the front office should look to unload the least productive member of that group.
It just happens that the least productive third baseman is also the highest paid. Mike Moustakas is owed $16M next season and $18M in 2023 with a $20M club-option in 2024 that includes a $4M buyout. In short, Moustakas is signed to a two-year/$38M contract. Ouch!
Trading Mike Moustakas would be no small feat, and in order to do so, the Cincinnati Reds would likely have to sacrifice one or more top prospects in a potential deal and/ or send a good deal of cash to the team that takes on Moose’s contract. With the likely implementation of the universal DH, keeping Moustakas isn’t the end of the world, but it’d be great to offload his contract.