MLB Hot Stove: Mike Moustakas returns to Royals on one-year deal

After losing Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain to free agency over the winter, the Kansas City Royals appear to be close to getting one of their core players back. The team has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with third baseman Mike Moustakas.

The mutual option is, for all intents and purposes, a way for the Royals to push some money (the $1 million buyout, specifically) onto the club's 2019 payroll. It is extremely rare for both sides of a mutual option to be exercised. One side typically walks away for whatever reason.

Moustakas was undoubtedly hoping for a large payday this offseason after setting a Royals franchise record with 38 home runs in 2017. He hit .272/.314/.521 (116 OPS+) overall. Moustakas, like many other free agents, got caught up in a slower-than-expected offseason. A one-year deal with a $6.5 million guarantee has to be a bitter pill to swallow.

A one-year contract allows Moustakas to give free agency another shot next winter, when he wouldn't be attached to draft pick compensation -- Moustakas rejected the qualifying offer this offseason and is thus ineligible to receive one in the future -- and teams may be more willing to spend. It's certainly better than remaining unemployed.

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Mike Moustakas is reportedly close to rejoining the Royals. USATSI

As for the Royals, the argument can be made re-signing Moustakas is not in their best interests. They're rebuilding and anything that helps them win games hurts their draft position. Then again, trading Moustakas to a contender at the July 31 deadline could more than compensate for any loss in draft position.

Kansas City recently inked first baseman Lucas Duda and center fielder Jon Jay to low-cost one-year contracts to replace Hosmer and Cain. With Moustakas back in the fold, the starting lineup could look something like this come Opening Day:

  1. CF Jon Jay
  2. 2B Whit Merrifield
  3. 3B Mike Moustakas
  4. C Salvador Perez
  5. 1B Lucas Duda
  6. DH Jorge Soler
  7. RF Jorge Bonifacio
  8. LF Alex Gordon
  9. SS Alcides Escobar

Infielder Cheslor Cuthbert, who had been slated to play third base before the Moustakas deal, will presumably move into a super utility role and get regular at-bats while playing all around the infield.

It's worth noting that last month, after Hosmer signed with the San Diego Padres, Royals GM Dayton Moore all but ruled out re-signing Moustakas. He said it was time for the team to move on and look to the future.

Obviously someone with the Royals has changed their mind since then, possibly at the ownership level. Moustakas will help the Royals be respectable this season -- there's something to be said for not being an abject embarrassment on the field -- and he could be a nice trade chip come the deadline.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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