By Cat Garcia
While fans prepare for warmer weather and Opening Day festivities, ball players have begun to welcome a new season by get back into the groove of everyday play.
But not everyone is hearing the crack of bats at Spring Training camps just yet.
From Jake Arrieta to Lucas Duda, there are still a handful of free agents left to be signed before Opening Day, and while the White Sox may not be looking to add a big name or contract to the fold just yet, there have been some interesting rumblings as we head into the first live action games of the year.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported earlier this week that an MLB executive noted third baseman Mike Moustakas may still have a good chance of landing with the White Sox.
In a vacuum, a reunion with the Royals would seem to be the most likely outcome for Moustakas. But the Royals have commited to starting fresh with a young core after winning their first World Series title in 30 years with Moustakas, Hosmer, Cain, etc — all of which have not be resigned yet or have moved on.
Moustakas had a strong season in 2017, hitting a career high 38 home runs in Kauffman Stadium. Moustakas also batted .272/.314/.521 while sporting a 114 wRC+. Not bad for a third baseman who is about to enter his age 30 season.
The question now is simple. Are the White Sox uncomfortable enough with running out Matt Davidson and Co. everyday that they feel the need to sign a player such as Moustakas? After all, White Sox GM Rick Hahn was calculated enough to make it clear to folks pestering him with Manny Machado questions all winter that they were going to do what was best for their long term plan. Would that be to sign Moustakas to a one-year deal, and go after Machado in free agency next offseason?
Considering Moustakas made just $8.7 million with the Royals in 2017 and is likely sitting at home waiting for his phone to ring, he could come at a bargain for the White Sox to add last minute, one that wouldn’t really jeopardize their financial plan for the future, but make the 2018 team considerably more solid on all fronts.
Signing Moustakas for a year and even potentially flipping him at the trade deadline to finish out the season with Davidson or perhaps even a call up for Jake Burger could also be a route the White Sox are looking to take. They would be able to upgrade at third base for a while and cash in on prospects, should Moustakas have as successful of a season has he did with the Royals in 2017.
Going into the season, the dust seems to have settled on which players will be starting at each position, and though it won’t be a brilliant crop on all accounts, it’s passable for a likely non-contending season that’s fresh on the heels of a rebuild. But when it comes to third base, it’s been a bit hazy for several seasons now.
Davidson is obviously the leading candidate for the starting role, but considering he hit just .220/.260/.452 last season, the idea of him taking of the bulk of the playing time isn’t exactly ideal — even in this landscape. Davidson feels more suited to a bench role, where he can hone his best tool — his power — when the situational need arises. But there is no real reason to be running out a player who owned a very characteristic 37 percent strikeout rate in 443 plate appearances last season. Perhaps a possible last minute upgrade to the hot corner has been Hahn’s creative thinking at work all along, or perhaps this is simply a case of “Hey, we need a third baseman and you haven’t been signed yet”.
Whether there will be any truth behind the speculation that Moustakas could land with the White Sox remains to be seen for now, but the main takeaway is that should a transaction come together in the next few weeks, it wouldn’t jeopardize the White Sox’s long term plans to be more active on the free agent market next offseason, but would lock in a solid starting third baseman for the coming season.