The slow-moving free agent market has yet to pick up even with spring training in full swing. That reality is hitting many of the remaining free agents hard, and it may lead one of the biggest names still available to do something truly unusual.
According to baseball super agent Scott Boras, his client, Mike Moustakas, is considering the possibility of sitting until after the MLB Draft, which is scheduled to run June 4-6. That would mean missing a little over one-third of the regular season.
Speaking to the Kansas City Star on Tuesday, Boras indicated that Moustakas, a 29-year-old third baseman who set the Royals home run record for his position with 38 in 2017, could benefit from such a strategy. The reasoning being that if Moustakas waits until after the draft, he’ll no longer have draft pick compensation tied to his signing after he rejected Kansas City’s qualifying offer.
The Star report notes that Boras has played this game before. In 2014, Kendrys Morales remained unsigned until June 8, when he inked a one-year, $7.4 million deal with the Minnesota Twins. Waiting ended up benefiting Morales because he escaped the draft pick period and only committed for the remainder of the season. Since a player can only be given a qualifying offer once, Morales didn’t have to worry about it impacting another deal. He’s gone on to sign subsequent deals with Kansas City and Toronto that will ultimately net him $48.5 million between 2015 and 2019.
Boras seems to be confident that a similar or even better scenario could be possible for Moustakas if a team doesn’t up the ante before opening day.
“Watch what happens,” Boras said. “This player has no picks attached to him. It goes away, because they can only put it on him once. So now it’s a totally different world for Moose.”
Boras has long been critical of the qualifying system because of the impact the draft pick compensation can have on free agents. It’s one thing for teams to pay big money for a player. It’s another when teams must also forfeit a draft pick that could represent a big part of their future. With teams now more hesitant to spend, it’s a double whammy that’s forcing qualified free agents to decide between standing their ground or playing for less than what they believe they’re worth.
If Moustakas takes a one-year deal during the season and hits the market again next winter, it’s possible he’d be joined by both Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson. On the surface, that seems risky because both of those players would seemingly be valued more. However, it’s important to remember that Machado wants shortstop to be his home from now on. That means teams seeking a third baseman could be choosing between Donaldson and Moustakas, and it’s Donaldson who would likely have the draft pick attached to him this time. Not Moustakas. That’s where Boras sees the real benefit.
It’s an interesting dynamic that highlights how complicated the system has become for free agents. It also highlights how wise Boras is to everything that’s happening, and how it changes the way he advises his clients. If Moustakas goes down the road of waiting, it will definitely be interesting to see if Boras has the right idea again, and whether or not it becomes a trend.
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