Was Moose Really the Optimal Use of Money?

The Brewers re-signed Mike Moustakas to a 1 year $10 million contract.  He is heading into his age 30/31 season coming off a year where he hit for a 104 wRC+.  While this adds a power left-handed bat to the lineup, the Brewers still have a plethora of power hitting corner infielders with Aguilar, Thames, and Shaw.  Now Shaw will be moved over to 2nd base where he is much worse defensively.  Here is the breakdown of value:

Name wOBA wRC+
Shaw 0.338 110
Moose 0.336 111
Spangenberg 0.3 85
Perez 0.295 81

Offensively the Brewers are coming out way ahead here.  These are the current Steamer projections.  With Shaw moving over to 2nd base he will likely see the majority, let’s say 85% – 90%, of the time there.  This will bump Spangenberg and Hernan Perez out of playing time.  Here is the average wOBA and wRC+ before with and without the trade:

Before Moose After Moose
wRC+ 92 108
wOBA 0.311 0.33

This still has Spangenberg and Perez included but at a much lesser role. It is clear how much offense the Brewers gain in this signing.  But how about the defense? Below you will see the averages over the past 3 seasons for Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.

Shaw -1 -1.5
Moose -1.6 -0.26
Spangenberg 0 -0.1
Perez 0 -0.13

Overall the Brewers are not losing much with defense with Shaw at 2nd.  Perez and Spangenberg would be better defensively than Shaw will be, but even they are not Gold Glove caliber at 2nd base.  Without Moose, Shaw provides plus defense to the team.  Over the past 3 seasons, he averages 7.33 DRS and a .833 UZR.  In terms of DRS at the Brewers are losing about 9 runs.

There can be something to say for Travis Shaw improving defensively at 2B as he spends more time there.  Last year he was thrown into that position with no background.  Now he is more familiar with how to play there.  Overall, the offensive additions outweigh the defensive losses. But could the money have been better spent?

There are 2 possible better options.  The first would be to have signed Marwin Gonzalez instead.  Marwin has more positional flexibility and is nearly the same offensive player as Moustakas.  He may even have a higher ceiling than Moose and is 2 years younger.  Fangraph’s crowdsourcing projects Marwin to be in a $10.1 million/year range as well.

The 2nd option would be to acquire Dallas Keuchel.  The Brewers could still sign him, but now they have $10 million locked up in Moose that could have gone towards Keuchel.  Pitching depth is still an issue whereas corner infield was not.  And at 2nd base, Keston Hiura might be ready later in the season and could provide that offensive production at that position.  With a projected 3.2 WAR this season, Keuchel would add 2.4 WAR if you replace the lowest projected SP with him.  In addition, you get a leader who has won a World Series with Houston and can mentor the young pitchers in the rotation.  Crowd Source projects him to be worth around $19 million/year and that is for a 4-year deal.  The AAV would be greater for a 1-year deal.  It is the kind of money that, now with the Moustakas signing, the Brewers will not be able to dish out.

Does Moose add value to the Brewers? Yes.  The offensive output is better with him than without.  However, Marwin Gonzalez adds much more position flexibility that would allow Shaw to play 3rd base where he has had 22 DRS over the past 3 seasons and has proven to be above average defensively.  In addition, this would allow Cain, Braun, Aguilar, and other players to take rest days more frequently.  Adding pitching over another corner infielder would have also been more useful for another possible Post-season run.  Milwaukee fans shouldn’t be all that thrilled with the signing considering better possible options.

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