Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier?

Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier?

You’re Alex Anthopoulos. All is quiet on the free agent front. You have roughly $15 million – maybe more – still in your budget for payroll. You look at your team and you see a lot of possibilities, but there are at least two things that stand out as concerns. First, over a third of the home runs hit by the Braves last year came from guys no longer around. Fifty-nine home runs are gone for a team that finished with the third-fewest homers in the NL. You’ve added Preston Tucker and Charlie Culberson. Might want to address that.

Second, the franchise is still looking for answers at third base. Sure, Johan Camargo hit .299/.331/.452 last season and the switch-hitter looks even more buff now. But you also know that coming into 2017, Camargo had a minor league OPS of under .700. There are reasons to believe Camargo is a late bloomer. There also must be concerns with putting a lot of hope in his unproven bat. Another option, Rio Ruiz, hit four homers in 173 PA last year but also hit .193. Your scouts still believe he could be a possible asset, but you’re not very enthusiastic.

And then you say to yourself: perhaps I can do the whole two birds, one stone bit. Why add a power bat and a proven third baseman when you can add a power bat who happens to be a proven third baseman? And wouldn’t ya know it? Two options are currently available for the plucking. Which will you choose?

Option 1: Mike Moustakas
3-Yr Sample: .275/.329/.496, .348 wOBA, 118 wRC+, -2 rPM, -3 DRS, 0.9 UZR, 6.6 fWAR
2018: Age-29, .266/.326/.499, .345 wOBA, 113 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR Steamer projection

Option 2: Todd Frazier
3-Yr Sample: .233/.317/.466, .334 wOBA, 110 wRC+, 14 rPM, 14 DRS, 9.9 UZR, 10.0 fWAR
2018: Age-32, .235/.322/.446, .328 wOBA, 101 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR Steamer projection

Note: Moustakas missed much of the 2016 season due to injury. Also, Frazier’s defensive numbers – except for what fWAR uses as part of its calculation – were entirely from third base.

To be fair, there exists another option – Eduardo Nunez – but I didn’t include him because he doesn’t provide the power numbers I’m looking for.

When the offseason began, Braves fans were having this debate already. In fact, on November 17, I looked at this exact quandary and held that Moustakas didn’t make a lot of sense for the Braves. I encourage you to read that post so you can compare-and-contrast with my thoughts now.

While a slow market was predicted, the snail’s pace this market has moved – with so few buyers – has been surprising. What I saw in Moustakas was a guy that was going to be paid a ton by simply being the best option available at third base. He would likely not only cash in a big money deal but a long contract. Guys with his profile – weak on-base skills, troublesome defensive metrics, a game completely predicated on power – can come around to bite you hard in the future when you are paying them the going rate for a 29-year-old power-hitting third baseman when they’re 34.

By Arturo Pardavila III [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
However, the market could have changed since then. Or, should I say, it should have changed. Guys like Moustakas can either continue to demand something in the neighborhood of $80 million over five years or they can adapt to what the market will pay because, well, it ain’t $80 mil. My concerns in November of what a Moustakas might look like in Year 5 or – gasp! – Year 6 of a possible deal seem a bit overdone now. At this point, Moustakas might only be able to gobble up a three-or-four-year contract. That certainly makes him a more attractive option. Especially if you consider that the average annual value (AAV) could also be less than it would have been earlier in the offseason.

On the other side of things, Frazier was always a short-term buy. He’ll turn 32 in about a week-and-a-half so he’s a tad older. Frazier has quietly been a steady contributor over the last four years with at least 27 home-runs and a 2.5 fWAR in each season. Despite consistency and durability, the prevailing belief was that Frazier would receive an AAV similar to Moustakas, but over fewer seasons because he was three years older. If Moustakas’ demands have withered down to a 3-year pact, Frazier might only need a two-year commitment.

Before you decide who is the right choice, there are a few things you need to know.

Moustakas is a left-hand hitter. That would mean if you teamed him up with Freddie Freeman in the heart-of-the-order, Brian Snitker would be nervous considering opposing managers would often use left-hand specialists against the duo. Moustakas isn’t inept against left-hand pitching, though. Over the last three years, he posted a .341 wOBA and 114 wRC+ against southpaws. Meanwhile, as most pitchers are right-handed, Frazier has a .326 wOBA and 104 wRC+ when losing the platoon advantage.

Moving on, Frazier was not eligible to receive a qualifying offer after being traded during the 2017 season. Moustakas was extended a qualifying offer by the Royals, which he declined. Signing him would mean losing the Braves’ third-highest draft pick, which is currently their fourth-round choice. For a team with a reduced ability to sign international talent, losing another draft choice – and the slot bonus with it – must weigh on your mind.

So, Alex Anthopoulos, make a choice. Will you go for Moustakas? Yes, you lose your fourth-round pick. But you could potentially add a big thumper to the lineup on just a three-year contract. Moustakas is the better hitter of the two options and a better bet to keep on hitting with his age advantage. His defense looked worse coming off an injury, though. Will that trend continue?

Or do you go with Frazier? After all, unlike Moustakas, you are getting a guy whose defense is definitely not declining. Plus, you don’t lose a potentially valuable draft choice. You also force managers to make more decisions late in games if you have Frazier following Freeman. Again, Moustakas hits lefties fairly well so the impact here is not nearly as significant. One last thing – if fit is the ultimate concern, Frazier may be the guy. Unlike Moustakas, Frazier has played other positions, including first base and the corner outfield positions. He could shift away from third base should Austin Riley play his way into the picture.

I guess the choice comes down to this: do you want the better hitter or do you want the better fit?

Make your choice.

(Or don’t and go with Camargo. For many people, that will be the obvious choice and that’s fine in my book. But, come on, play along. Choose between the two.)

23 Comments

If I’m the GM, I’m inking Moustakas. I’ve maintained all along that if he could be had for 4yr and 60million dollars, the Braves should jump on it. I know the biggest arguments against that are going to be that you’re going to lose a draft pick, you’re going to block Riley, and you’re essentially dropping out of the 3B market in next year’s FA class. And I’ll buy that losing the pick would hurt- but if someone told you that you could essentially be guaranteed of drafting a starting 3B for the next four years in the 4th round, would you do it? Everything else is very dependent on a lot of things breaking the Braves way, and I’d rather just take the “known” now than gamble on the “what if” of the future.

I want carmargo at 3rd, but would love Todd father and Cargo (left) both might take 1 year deals. 2 weeks from pitchers and catchers…..

Frazier and do it fast. And I would go two years with a team option for a third. Having Frazier around as a bench piece and backup plan to ease Riley into the role is a very wise idea. You could always buy Machado as a SS if Swanson craps out this year. Plus, if Frazier performs this year and Riley the next then Frazier is still tradable. Moustakas does not have sufficient track record to say he can repeat his performance or that he can change leagues and repeat his performance. Way too much risk for the cost. With Markakis gone next year or sooner, having a piece like Frazier to start or to have on the bench would be very beneficial.

I go with Frazier, for four primary reasons.

1) No loss of draft pick (with the IFA punishment, the Braves need to hoard their draft picks as much as they can)

2) Defense (with a young pitching staff, the Braves need to value guys who are elite or near-elite in the field; Frazier is a much better defender according to the metrics)

3) Versatility (I say this because Frazier is right-handed, which gives Snitker more options in lineup creation, and because Frazier can play a corner outfield spot if we need him there. He won’t block Austin Riley)

4) Contract length vs. production (Frazier will likely sign for a shorter, less expensive deal than Moustakas because of his age. This allows the Braves more freedom of movement down the road while only losing 0.3 fWAR in 2018 according to Steamer)

Frazier hasn’t played the OF for many years… I’d have a hard time seeing him excelling out there now. To me it seems like you’re looking at both Frazier and Moose as 3B, and nothing more- unless you want to use Frazier as a back up to Freddie at 1B.

It feels like it’s going largely unmentioned how much better of an all-around hitter Moose is, though.

With prices dropping for both, I feel that all things being equal, both Frazier and Moustakis will end up signing with teams who have a better chance of winning in 2018 than The Braves.

But if I had to pick, I’d sign Frazier to a one year/$20 mil-ish guarantee (with a team option of $10 mil or so in 2019). Such a contract would make Frazier an attractive trade candidate around The July Trade deadline IF Frazier was raking at the plate (because the majority of his 2019 salary would have already been paid AND the team trading for him would have a relatively affordable $10 mil 2019 team option should they want to pick it up).

Or The Braves could keep Frazier for an additional year IF they get a feeling that they are going to miss out on getting Machado or (as a backup) Donaldson (however, I’d rather see The Braves keep Frazier for 2019 and groom Riley for the 3rd base job…than see them go after Donaldson, whose age makes him a candidate for some serious fall off when he’s hitting his mid-30’s).

So it’s either get Machado OR keep Frazier/groom Riley in 2019.

Paul, one year at $20M is a helluva overpay. Better to sign him for 2 years at $24M. There is no reason to buy into anything that blocks Riley. The Werth idea is not bad, though. Machado is a SS not a 3B; he has made that abundantly clear. When he has a choice, he will only sign up as a SS.

Roger…..there is NO WAY that Frazier signs with The Braves for 2 years/$24 mil. He’ll either take ‘a little less money’ to sign with a team that is contending for The Playoffs in 2018…OR…..take ‘more money’ to sign with a team like The Braves (who IS NOT expected to contend for The Playoffs in 2018). That’s why i suggested a 1 year/big salary deal with a team option that is for less money in 2019.

Why not sign Jason Werth to a 1 year (relatively cheap) deal..to play left field for The Braves..and hope that he ‘catches lightening in a bottle’ (because he’s struggled after stealing money from Washington during that 7 year monster contract he suckered them into signing, lol)?

He’s right handed, has a little pop in his bat, feels that he has something to prove. It wouldnt cost that much to sign him.

Eduardo Nunez would probably be my preferred option at this point in time. Extreme positional flexibility and more of a known quantity at positions other than 3B, probably a lot cheaper than the power hitting Frazier and Moustakas to boot. Very Omar Infante-ish. Something the team has been missing for quite some time, to be honest. With Nunez, term of contract wouldn’t mean a damn of difference as he could shift positions or transition into a super-utility role when the time comes to more permanently resolve positions like 3B and/or LF.

BUT….if I had to pick between Moustakas and Frazier. I probably go with Frazier. More likely to accept a shorter term deal. Better–and more importantly, willingness for–positional flexibility. Probably better defensively, too, if Moustakas’s defense from last year holds steady and doesn’t improve the further he is removed from his knee surgery.

There’s something about Moustakas that strikes me as very…Markakis-y. But without on-base ability. My concern would be what if this 38 HR outburst of his is the outlier? I mean, we’re talking about a guy who absolutely destroyed his previous career high of 22. While it is impressive, what happens if he reverts back to a 20-25 HR guy and doesn’t improve on his on-base abilities, defense and eventually suffers maybe even more decline in power?

I’d expect Moose’s power numbers to dip, because the 38 probably was an outlier. The thing is though, if he consistently hits about .260, smacks around 25 homeruns, and drives in 80; he’d be a solid buy at 15 million or so per season. I don’t think those numbers are really that out of reach for him either, based off his track record.

If faced with a choice between Frazier and Nunez, I’d much rather have Frazier. I don’t see any value in Nunez beyond what Camargo could potentially bring. The team desperately needs a middle of the order hitter, and AA has acknowledged they recognize the club has lost a lot of power. If Freeman doesn’t have some type of protection behind him, he’s probably going to set a walk record this year.

King,

Here’s my thing with Moustakas. He’s been demanding that 5-6 year contract. I’m sure he wants that job security before all else, even if the salary demand comes down a bit. You, yourself, insinuated earlier in this topic that you feel he can be had for a 4-years, $60M contract. While you may feel that’s a bargain–and it is compared to what he’s asking for initially–I feel that would be a monumental mistake.

I referenced Markakis as an example of a player who Moustakas kind of reminds me of (noting more power, less OBP)…but it’s not really the type of player that the comparison is based on. It’s the career-arc. Dan Uggla is another one. Each of Uggla and Markakis were acquired around their age 30 season and signed to longterm contracts. Each diminished quickly whether it be from longterm health issues or diminishing skills. As I said earlier and will repeat now, my fear is when he does drop off from the impressive 2017, how far will he drop off and then will he continue to drop off?

I guess my underlying argument is neither or Frazier and Moustakas are going to win this team a world series. I know this is going to sound very “Paul Lentz” of me, but if they’re not going to be difference-makers or final piece to the puzzle types, why invest so much for so long? Now, I’m guilty of being onboard with a theoretical Yelich trade, but that was only under the premise that we might be able to get him without giving up as much as the Brewers did–and, well, Yelich is a legitimate 4-5 win difference-maker. Frazier and Moustakas? 2. Maybe 3 wins improvement, at most.

So I guess for me, how many times do you have to invest in non-difference making players on longterm deals before you learn your lesson? Moustakas, in a vacuum of one year, makes sense. On a 4-year investment, I can’t see this story ending happily.

I can see your points, Bryce, but my stance is still rooted in the belief that the Braves COULD still be in striking distance of the 2nd wildcard spot with the addition of a legitimate middle of the order type hitter. The NL is just so wide open beyond Washington, LA, St. Louis and Chicago. Now if Milwaukee goes out and inks Darvish, an argument could be made they might be better than the Cards on paper; and certainly bounds better than the Braves, even with a 3B upgrade. Right now though, isn’t it worth going for it, within a certain amount of reason?

I think Moose would be a safer play than Markakis was based on the type of injury they had. Nick had the neck issue, which sapped his power. It sorta changed the type of player he was. If he even still had 15-18 HR pop, he’d be well worth the money he makes. Moose’s issue was his leg, which no matter how it might go in the future, wouldn’t fundamentally change his game because he’s not a speed guy.

Comparing him to Uggla? That’s just a mean thing to say about any ML player. πŸ˜‰ Lol.

As I mentioned earlier though, I can understand where you’re coming from though. I know it isn’t as if the people in the let’s use some caution camp don’t want to win. I just want to watch a winner, or at the very least a team that loses a little more excitingly this year.

Bryce..what’s wrong with sounding ‘like Paul Lentz’? Dude, I’ve been NAILING IT all winter long, lol!

At least you were able to see what I’ve been saying all along about Frazier and Moustakis NEITHER really moving The Needle when it comes to helping The Braves become legit, long term contenders. To pay either of them over $10 mil in 2018 (when we’re FAR from being a legit playoff contender in 2018) would be a waste. As each player ages..each will probably decrease their production.

That’s why I’ve been pushing for WAITING until The 2018 Free Agent Offseason and go after Machado, Harper and Kimbrel to fill our obvious holes in Left and 3rd (Machado will still get paid and have NO PROBLEM with moving back to 3rd if Swanson rebounds in 2018. If Swanson DOES NOT rebound, then Machado can be signed as a ShortStop and Riley can get the job in 2019)…as well as Kimbrel as our closer (to solidify our bullpen, which could very well be a talented, young one by the end of 2018). Machado and Harper will only be 26 years old (they’ll be hella productive during at least the next 5-6 years…years that match the 5-6 years of CHEAP/COST CONTROLLED/YOUNG players that we’ll have making their presence known throughout our roster the next few years!

It makes TOTAL SENSE to invest in those type of players…instead of the likes of Moustakis and Frazier. The Braves may have to overpay some…however we’ll have the payroll flexibility to do so!

However, as I’ve said all along, a number of things have to happen in 2018 for those hypothetical signings to make sense for The Braves. That’s why I’ve always maintained that The Braves simply have too many questions that need answering…to make any foolish, pipe dream-like moves designed to ‘contend’ in 2018. 2019 will be The Year to expect GREAT things in! 2019 AND beyond!

On the subject of Moustakas’s power…his homerun per flyball rate was definitely much higher than his career norms (17.8%). That said, he showed some improvement in this regard in 2015 (11.2%, first season above 10%) and was trending over 19% during his brief run in 2016. On the other hand, as you point to, how much value can we put into his power show last year? Will his HR/FB fall closer to 12% or so in 2018? And what kind of impact would that have on his power numbers – which is really the thing you’re buying here. It’s a valid question – one I kind of wished I had studied more before writing my article.

Completely unrelated: Something both Moose and Frazier share in common is that they are among the dozen or so major leaguers last year to have a greater-than-20% of contact that is graded soft and also greater-than-30% of contact that is graded hard. I like odd little numbers like that.

On the topic of power in general, and tying in Frazier and Moustakas.

Let’s throw out all other arguments and just take this and put it in that vacuum of one year that I reference. Nothing else matters other than the fact that they are power hitters and would be in the lineup for the entirety of 2018.

How does Moustakas affect the team’s win projection? How much would Frazier affect it? For funsies, throw Nunez in there and how much would he affect it?

I imagine, in a vacuum, the difference is almost negligible in the win column and an argument could be developed that while each would improve the team for the short term, Nunez may be the best fit for the longer term considering next winter’s mega-market.

Yeah, I don’t think in the vacuum of one year, there will be much of a difference. Frazier’s defense could provide extra impact – especially with B-Ref’s view of WAR that emphasizes actual run prevention versus hypothetical run prevention. In Fangraphs terms, I’d put Frazier and Moose at around 2.5-3.0 wins and Nunez a bit lower at 2.0 wins.

I like Nunez if he’s filling the Infante-role. For instance, if the Braves are going to go with Camargo at third – not the worst choice by any means – I like Nunez as a bench player who steals a game or two from Camargo each week. I do have my concerns about Nunez’s defense at third. It’s a bit difficult to get a read on because he’s never played the position with regularity, but his metrics are sub-standard there. And sure, Nunez should be significantly cheaper than Frazier or Moose and leaves more money for a 2018-19 winter of impact signings. But like I said, if the Braves are signing Nunez to be their starting third basemen, I would be disappointed. I don’t believe he’s an upgrade. There is a case that none of these three are upgrades over Camargo if he’s not a one-year wonder, but even if Camargo shows a slight decline, I think his defense will match Nunez in terms of overall value.

For what it’s worth, I like Nunez exactly for that Infante role. I honestly do not see the issue of him receiving 500 plate appearances across 4 or 5 positions throughout the season. I think the Braves would be better for it. If he were the choice (which I propose he is) the idea would definitely be to let Camargo play most of the time at 3B. At least until he proves he can not handle it.

Otherwise, in the vacuum of one year, which is really all we’re talking about at the moment, as you and I referenced, the difference is negligible. None of the names are likely to be integral parts of why the Braves do or do not contend.

My decision of Nunez is based not only on potential success in 2018, but keeping 2019 and beyond in mind as well. To sign a Moustakas locks you into mediocre and potentially bad production at 3B for 4+ years. Maybe the same for Frazier for 2+ years, but at least you’d have the advantage of moving Frazier if you had to make room for a better producer at 3B. But Nunez…he’d already be in that super-utility role. If/when Austin Riley is ready, Camargo could also shift into a utility role….or be traded for something useful if he’s still hitting…or perhaps Riley packaged for something useful if Camargo’s still lighting the world afire. All that doesn’t have a chance to happen with either of Frazier or Moustakas….all at the cost of what? 0.5-1 hypothetical win on the season?

Bryce, Frazier for two years has absolutely no impact on your idea. He makes the team significantly better this year (3 wins is a big deal especially if the pitching is seriously better) both on defense and offense. Having him through 2019 is even better because you can start Riley and have Frazier as a seriously good bench player (or occasional LF option) and Camargo becomes a very special and valuable super Util. So buying Frazier upgrades both 3B and the bench this year. Next year he provides a backup in case of injury or Riley not performing. If you give him a team option for a third year more the better. Plus if he is even nearly as good as he’s been then he is a tradeable asset. Nunez is completely redundant in all this and his defensive reputation is horrible if what one main goal is is to improve defense. I still like Carlos Gomez on a one year contract, too. He and Markakis can play the corners until Acuna comes up and then they can platoon in LF (Gokakis). So when Acuna, Markakis, Flowers, and Frazier start, you have Gomez, Camargo, Suzuki, and Adams/Tucker/Culberson/Peterson on the bench. That all is a really great mix of LH and RH and great defensive players all around. You are protected against injury and regression of any one or two players. The best part is that you have not committed any more payroll in 2019 except $12M or so to Frazier who is more tradeable than Markakis. When Markakis and Gomez leave, you can go to the Harper/Blackmon/etc auction and maybe the Kershaw auction. Assuming that Dansby gets back in the game, you don’t need Machado or Donaldson because you have Riley/Frazier. This is so fundamentally logical – improving the team this year without sacrificing anything for next year and not losing any prospects – that only collusion can explain why the Braves have not executed it.

Note that Paul may be right about needing to give Frazier extra incentive to sign. I’d do it by giving him 2/24 with a team option for a third and then give him a $3-$5M signing bonus. The QO value is $18M so you can’t give him more than that for the first year.

Those are a bit of an odd little set of numbers, Tommy. I’d assume, working off of the idea that most of your hard contact is coming off of squaring up on the ball, that they saw the ball well and often then. I guess the flip side of that is 20% of the time they didn’t get great swings.

One other thing to also consider though is Moose played 81 games in Kauffman Stadium, which isn’t very kind (weighted at .809) to the homerun. Whereas Frazier had the benefit of playing in Yankee Stadium, which was the second friendliest park (weighted at 1.279) in the league for the long ball; and Guaranteed Rate Field (weighted at 1.162), which ranked seventh for the big fly.

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