As the Cardinals continue to seek a left-handed hitting outfielder to round out their roster, a familiar name that may have fit the description has found a new home.
Jeff Passan reported Sunday that the Kansas City Royals agreed with Brandon Moss to a two-year contract worth $12 million. As the market for veteran sluggers of the his mold developed, Moss was rarely mentioned in the typical offseason chatter.
Though Moss clubbed 28 home runs in 413 at-bats for the Cardinals last season, he endured a brutal stretch run that included one of the worst offensive months baseball has ever seen: After closing August on a 1 for 12 slump, Moss went 7 for 83 in September, posting a ghastly batting line of .084/.163/.193. Talk of qualifying offers faded into the distance as Moss found himself in free agent purgatory.
The deal with Kansas City is a fraction of what Moss could have made if not for that inexplicably poor month. Still, he found the security of a multi-year contract in the eight-figures–hopefully he won’t lose much sleep over what happened last September.
Moss joins an intriguing roster, a Royals team that has begun the process of ushering in significant changes from its 2015 World Series group. As core members of that team reach free agency, Kansas City has to adjust. With positional flexibility and two years of team control, Moss offers some nice value to a team in transition.
A lefty power bat who won’t embarrass himself in the field, capable of manning first base and both corners in the outfield. It begs the question: wouldn’t that type of player be a good fit for the Cardinals?
John Mozeliak has articulated outfield depth as an area worth improving before the season begins. In particular, he would like a left-handed batsman to join switch-hitting Dexter Fowler in offsetting righties Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham. The price for Moss is hardly debilitating; why didn’t the Cardinals pursue him?
It’s possible that to some extent, they did: it’s important to remember that just because discussions with free agents aren’t always reported to the public doesn’t mean that those discussions don’t happen. Teams weigh their options with dozens of players every winter.
The Cardinals definitely liked what Moss brought to the table. In early August, Mozeliak was asked about a possible extension for Moss. While his response carefully toed a diplomatic line–he “would certainly be open to discussing that,” and the Cardinals “would certainly like to keep him around”–it seemed clear that the timing for such an extension wasn’t right during the season. Many considered an offseason extension a promising concept–until September happened.
It’s wild to think that one bad month could so severely alter the course of a player’s future, but it did for Moss. It chilled enthusiasm for a reunion with a player St. Louis once gave up a valued pitching prospect (Rob Kaminsky) to acquire. Even after it was clear Moss available on clearance, St. Louis did not rush to bring him back.
Should they have? While Moss would have been a serviceable fit–offering power off the bench and serving as a capable replacement in the event of injuries–Mozeliak may have viewed a Moss return as counterproductive to the team's offseason goals.
Royals get Brandon Moss for 2 years, $12m. At that price, would you have liked the Cardinals to bring him back as lefty OF depth? #STLCards— Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12) January 29, 2017
Mike Matheny showed trust in Moss as an everyday player in 2016. For much of the season, it was warranted. By late September, it was befuddling. For Moss to be an effective asset alongside the new-look Cardinals outfield, he would have been relegated to the bench on a healthy roster.
Moss is worthy of more at-bats than the Cardinals could have justifiably promised him. At 33, Moss needed to land in a place where he could get the most out of his remaining prime years. His clubhouse presence will be missed in St. Louis, but because of the structure of the Cardinals roster, Moss is a better fit for the Royals at this point in time.
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