In 2017, Mike Moustakas hit .272/.314/.521 while hitting 38 home runs. The Kansas City Royals extended him a qualifying offer which he refused. It wasn’t an unusual decision. Moustakas might have been a one-dimensional power hitter and a roughly league average starter, but he should have been able to find a multi-year contract. His teammate Eric Hosmer eventually signed a seven-year deal with the San Diego Padres, and Moustakas and Hosmer had been about as valuable throughout their careers. Ultimately, Moustakas wound up settling for a $6.5 million one-year deal with his old team. It was $8.5 million less than he would have made had he accepted the qualifying offer.
Moustakas didn’t hit for as much power in 2018, but with better defensive numbers, he was still about as valuable he was in 2017. After the Royals traded him, he helped the Brewers to a division title. Still, that wasn’t enough to get him a multi-year deal commiserate with his ability. The Brewers’ declined a $15 million option but eventually signed Moustakas to a one-year, $7 million contract with a mutual option for 2020. The Brewers gave a player no one else wanted a chance, but the career third baseman was going to have to learn to play second base and do it for relative peanuts.
Moustakas has rewarded the Brewers’ generosity with a career year. Through 66 games, Moustakas is hitting .275/.337/.592. That’s good for a 138 wRC+. His previous high was 123 in the Royals’ championship 2015. On Sunday, he hit his 20th home run of the season to carry the Brewers to a 5-2 victory over the Pirates. He’s on pace to hit 49 home runs and to finish the season with 5.4 fWAR. That’s a win and a half better than his previous career high.
He’s also been perfectly fine at second base so far. It’s an extremely small sample, but at -1 DRS in 276 innings is adequate; he has been about as good as Eric Sogard and Ozzie Albies. He hasn’t been great at second by any stretch, but he has been playable, and that’s more than most gave him credit for coming into the season.
Moustakas has been helped by the livelier ball and by playing half his games at Miller Park, a left-handed power hitter’s dream. Though he’s split his home runs rather evenly between home and away games, his new home has helped his numbers more than Kauffman Stadium ever did certainly.
Moustakas’s 23.8 HR/FB percentage is not likely to continue , but he is hitting barreling the ball more consistently than he has since Statcast began tracking barrels in 2015. His hard hit of rate is a career high. These could come down as the season goes on as his batted ball and discipline stats haven’t. He hasn’t really made a major adjustment since he altered his swing prior to 2017.
Moose is the same guy he’s always been, more-or-less, which just makes his struggles to find work the past two seasons all the stranger. Every knows he doesn’t really walk and he doesn’t hit for average, but he’s been an above average hitter for the last five seasons.
Moustakas is having the kind of year where he should be able to decline his 2020 option and get the contract he deserves. If this season isn’t enough to prove that he’s worth more what he has gotten the past two years, I don’t know what will be.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.