Red Sox: Could Mike Moustakas be an alternative to Adrian Beltre?

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 9: Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals bats against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 9, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 9: Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals bats against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 9, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Adrian Beltre has popped up on Dave Dombrowski’s radar recently, but the price might be too high. Could Mike Moustakas be the next best thing?

The Boston Red Sox are supposedly scouting Adrian Beltre. That suggests that they are willing to entertain the idea of upgrading over struggling 21-year-old Rafael Devers. At least temporarily. This is why Beltre makes so much sense. At 39 and on a contract that only runs through the end of the year, he is the definition of a rental. But what if they can’t beat another team’s offer? Could Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas be next on their list of preferred options?

Moustakas is coming off of a season in which he hit 38 HR with a 114 wRC+. So far this year he has 14 HR with a 106 wRC+, both of which are improvements over what Devers has done at the plate. The big difference would be in wRC+ where Devers is at just 84 on the season, 14% worse than league average. Moustakas, for all his faults, has been comfortably above league average every season since 2014.

The argument for Moustakas.

The biggest thing Mike Moustakas has going for him is that he’s cheap and wouldn’t block Devers next year. His 1 year, $6.5M contract means the Royals could eat enough money to keep the Red Sox from triggering the harshest level of luxury tax penalties. And it wouldn’t even bump the cost in prospects by much since we are talking just a few million dollars. In some ways, this might be preferable to acquiring Adrian Beltre and his prorated $18M remaining contract.

There’s also the fact that Moustakas has a floor somewhere above league average. While he’s just barely above that now, he’s been well above it in his last two full seasons. A 114 wRC+ in 2017 and a 123 in 2015 represent a bat that, while not game changing, would fit in quite well hitting 5th or 6th in the Red Sox lineup. Devers, while having a ceiling much higher than that, is no sure thing to even match that level of production the rest of the way. Add in that Moustakas is a solid average defender at third, and he’s a much safer bet than a kid who would be the youngest player in high-A Salem right now.

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Is there an argument for the Red Sox sticking with Devers?

Quite simply, it comes down to exit velocity and launch angle. And while one favors the current Red Sox third baseman, the other doesn’t. Devers hits the ball harder than Moustakas. His average EV is 91.8 MPH. That’s the 25th highest in MLB. Moustakas is at 89.9 MPH this season. One of the reasons that Devers has such a high average EV, however, is the amount of ground balls he hits. Launch angles in the 0-10 degree range are the most likely to square the ball up. Thus, they are typically the hardest hit. His ground ball rate is 42.9% as compared to Moustakas’ 32.5%. Of course, how those fly balls break down are an important factor.

And this is where the argument for sticking with Devers falls apart, at least as far as adding Moustakas goes. tracks various ranges of launch angles with productive balls in play existing between 0 and 39 degrees. The closer you get to 39 degrees, however, the less productive your fly balls get. At 39 degrees and higher, you enter pop up territory. Moustakas is hitting more low drives (10-19 degrees) and slightly fewer hard drives (19-26 degrees). But he’s putting more balls into play in productive fly ball ranges (10-39 degrees). The Royals third baseman has the advantage 43.9% to 35.7%. It’s possible that Devers will start trading ground balls for fly balls, but at this stage of the season, it’s not a good bet.

I hate to admit it, but…

I’m about as a big a believer in Rafael Devers are you will find. And I’m still holding out hope for a hot streak like the one he opened his major league career with. But at this point, in a championship hopeful season, I think the team needs to shore up potential and existing weaknesses. Sadly, that includes third base. Plus, the team can still find regular at bats for Devers considering the fact that they don’t have a DH only bat like David Ortiz in the lineup anymore. J.D. Martinez isn’t a great defensive outfielder. But getting him into a corner spot every road game is a viable approach. Especially with Jackie Bradley Jr. failing to get his bat going.

It’s important to have the best possible defensive outfield in use at Fenway, given the extremely deep center and right field walls. But on the road they can make the lineup their focus. That gives Devers the DH spot half of the time. He could also start at third once or twice a week as well, perhaps against lefties where Moustakas is not nearly as good. That’s plenty of regular playing time to keep him moving forward. And it shores up an area that the team apparently believes can be upgraded in the short term.

Next: The Red Sox face a difficult 9 game stretch.

What do you think? Should Mike Moustakas be in the plans of Adrian Beltre isn’t attainable? Let us know in the comments!

(Stats as of 6/25/18)