Going into the 2018 season, the Mets have a lot of holes to fill. And with David Wright's absence presumed to be permanent, one of the biggest is at third base.
Unfortunately, the position player market is paper thin, and third base may be the worst spot of all. One of the few pending free agent third basemen having an above average year is Mike Moustakas, but does he make sense for the Mets?
On the positive side, Moustakas is having a strong offensive year with an .854 OPS -- 11th-best among MLB third basemen, and 35 home runs -- by far the most of his career. This marks the third consecutive year he has put up above average numbers, and though his on base percentage is mediocre, his strikeout rate is below league average and he can hit the ball hard, as evidenced by his sudden power breakout. He's on pace for over 40 home runs this season -- perhaps even doubling his previous career high of 22 set back in 2015.
Though he has never shown great speed, Moustakas has historically had a modestly good glove at third base, in the top half of the league by both traditional measures, such as fielding percentage, and modern metrics, such as defensive runs saved.
Additionally, one of the positive metrics for Moustakas is his age -- he'll be entering his age-29 season in a year when no other free agents at his position will be younger than 32. Second basemen are a similarly-aged group this year, with Eric Sogard the youngest at 31. Youth is very valuable in an era when the majority of talented players are locked down by contract extensions through their primes. Not yet 30, Moustakas probably has a couple more years where he can be reasonably expected to stay spry and mostly healthy.
There are some red flags, though, that will worry any team thinking about picking up Moustakas.
The first is that he does not have a long-established history of playing as well as he has. The power, in particular, is completely out of the blue and there should be plenty of skepticism as to whether such a big spike is sustainable. It's certainly possible that he's peaking late, but it's also possible that a bit of luck is compounding league-wide trends and giving him an artificial boost that will fade quickly.
And if the power is a mirage, Moustakas becomes a league-average (or worse) hitter very quickly. He doesn't draw many walks and he doesn't have the batted ball profile of someone who can hit for high average. His strikeout rate is low, but creeping up steadily, which could be a good trade-off for more home runs, or a warning sign of bat speed beginning to slow. His swing rate is way up, but his contact rate is down, both worthy of concern.
At the end of the day, Moustakas is likely a solid role player who would fit well on this Mets roster. The issue is that he's not going to be paid like a role player. He's going to be paid like a star, and likely for a long time.
Moustakas is hitting the market in a year with little or no competition and a desperate team will likely commit nine figures to him. Any team that does so is taking on a lot of risk and the strong likelihood that he will be a burden on the roster for the last year or two of his contract. In addition, If the Mets bring him on, it limits their ability to fill their many other holes.
With a buyer's market in pitching this year, and much more stock in outfielders, the Mets will likely be able to get much more bang for their buck with upgrades elsewhere, and not risk being hamstrung by a long-term deal to a player who hasn't proven definitively that he's a true difference-maker. If they do sign Moustakas, I won't complain much, but ultimately, I think they shouldn't put all their eggs in such a questionable basket.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring