Earlier today, I wrote that the Mets would be better off signing Mike Moustakas to play third base, while starting rookie Luis Guillorme at second instead of Asdrubal Cabrera.
Here's a more detailed explanation and why I actually think such a swap is possible...
How much better is Moustakas than Cabrera?
Pound-for-pound as hitters, obviously Moustakas brings more to the plate. He is 29 years old, has significantly more power than Cabrera (in a power league), and is projected by FanGraphs.com for roughly 2.7 WAR.
Last season, Moustakas was among the best at pulling the ball, 37 percent of which were in the air. But how will this play in Citi Field, especially early in the season when the wind blows hard from left to right through frigid, damp air. According to charts on Baseball Savant, Moustakas would hit for less power playing 81 games in Citi Field, but he'd still produce a lot more than can be expected from Cabrera.
In contrast, FanGraphs.com is projecting roughly 1.6 WAR for Cabrera, who is just three years older than Moustakas. Cabrera has his moments, but is more or less an average offensive player. However, if he loses another step on the bases, continues his decline in power and returns to drawing less walks, he's going to hurt more than he helps at the plate.
In the field, Moustakas and Cabrera are not far off from one another. Moustakas gets to so many more balls than Cabrera, though -- whether hit on the ground in the hole, bunted weakly in front him, hit or over his head or ripped down the line. Moustakas may not get to every batted ball, but he's almost always in position to make an attempt, whereas Cabrera isn't.
The point is, the Mets are a significantly better team with Moustakas at third base than Cabrera. There is no way around it. However, are they better with Moustakas at third and Luis Guillorme instead of Cabrera at second?
How good is Guillorme in the field?
He's incredible. It's not just that he gets to the ball as well as anyone I've ever seen at the position, but he's also got lightning quick hands. He'd be a good magician. He isn't smooth and fluid. Instead, he's stocky, explosive and slipping and sliding and flying all around the position. He's like Rey Ordonez, but at second base.
He isn't known for his bat. But, he can hit and has shown a mature knowledge of the strike zone. He makes consistent contact and puts the ball in play. He is and probably always will be a light weight hitter. However, if hitting coach Pat Roessler can get him to simply make better, harder contact, with his fielding, he can easily be an everyday second baseman, where he can also win a Gold Glove.
In other words, as I said this morning, Juan Lagares in center field and Guillorme and Amed Rosario on the infield would be one of the best defensive up-the-middle trios in the league. The impact this would have on the mental state and results of the pitching staff cannot be understated.
Is it possible Moustakas joins the Mets?
The Mets are telling reporters, 'No,' but the road is wide open and I think they know it...
The fact is, only the Royals, Braves and Mets have a current need for Moustakas. And, I don't see either of these three teams dishing out the five-year, roughly $90 million deal he hoped to get at the start of the winter. Instead, as a team executive recently told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Moustakas will have to settle for less.
"He's a solid player, but not a star," a general manager told Feinsand. "When you see what Jay Bruce got from the Mets, it's hard to see Moustakas getting more than that."
Bruce inked a three-year, $39 million deal. If he were to accept a three-year deal, Moustakas would re-enter the free agent market at 32 years old.
I don't see the Yankees being interested, a) because signing him would block going after Manny Machado next winter, and 2) because they've been over the luxury tax threshold so many times, and Moustakas would also cost them two draft picks and bonus pool money.
The Angels had been considered an obvious destination, but they instead signed Zack Cozart to a three-year, $38 million contract earlier in the offseason.
Instead of signing Moustakas, my hunch is the Braves would rather sign free-agent 3B Todd Frazier because he'll cost less money, require less of a commitment, and is tradeable based on the last two seasons.
So, if the Braves end up with Frazier, it leaves only the Royals and Mets for Moustakas...
In the event both teams offered equal one-year contracts, I assume he'd return to Kansas City. However, what happens if the Mets offer him three years and $40 million (like Bruce)? Or, what about a three-year, potentially $50 million deal with a one-year opt out paying him more in year-one if he stays (like they did with Yoenis Cespedes after 2015)? In that case, I bet he'd take it, which is why I'll believe it's possible to get him until he officially inks a deal some place else...
Is any of the above realistic?
It should be, but it probably isn't. Because it's as much of a stretch to assume Sandy Alderson will sign Moustakas as it's a stretch to believe Moustakas will sign with the Mets and Alderson will give Guillorme a starting job knowing Cabrera is on the roster. However, as I said earlier, the road is open to do it... and they should...
Sadly, the more realistic and traditional option is to sign 2B Eduardo Nunez and keep Cabrera at third. Interestingly, Cabrera and Nunez are similar players. Nunez is a better runner, but Cabrera has more power. They both play multiple positions, including second base, where Nunez is only slightly better than Cabrera.
Interestingly, because there are more teams in need of a multi-position, veteran infielder, Nunez could actually end up getting a longer deal than Moustakas, though Moustakas might get twice the money per season.
In that case, though, I'd rather see the Mets take a chance, make a bold move and give Moustakas a creative, short-term deal, as opposed to back-boarding a layup with Nunez. And, again, because I have zero interest in Cabrera playing the field every day at second base, I'd put him on the bench, create a sensational middle infield, and watch Guillorme win a Gold Glove between Rosario and Adrian Gonzalez.
The difference between Cabrera-Nunez and Moustakas-Guillorme is slightly more than $10 million. It's the difference between starting with a roughly $145 million or $155 million payroll. However, for the additional $10 million, Moustakas-Guillorme gives the Mets a better bench (where Cabrera will be), a third legit power threat (Bruce, Cespedes, Moustakas) and a significantly better infield defense (which will also make the pitching better). It all can happen, but first the Mets need to want it to happen...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...