Cleveland Indians lose out on Mike Moustakas, Reds improve

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Arguably the most sensible free agency move the Cleveland Indians could have made this winter is off the board. So now what?

The Cincinnati Reds signed Mike Moustakas to a four-year deal worth $64 million on Monday, strengthening an increasingly scary lineup and setting themselves up for a competitive 2020 season.

Moustakas was finally rewarded with a long-term payday after two consecutive winters of washing up on the rocks of free agency. It is well to see Moustakas being valued and paid in the range he deserves.

The unfortunate upshot of this signing is that it takes off the board a player who would have fit the roster needs of the Cleveland Indians like a glove. Of all the free agents in this class, Moustakas may have been the one player whose skill set, handedness at the plate, and positional ability made the most sense for the Tribe.

It’s reasonable to assume Cleveland’s primary objective at the moment is to win a championship before Francisco Lindor leaves via free agency after the 2021 season. The Indians can’t exactly be lambasted for missing out on a 31-year-old infielder who will make an average of $16 million over the next four seasons, but Moustakas would have gone a long way toward accomplishing that mission.

The Indians will now have to explore other markets for a fourth starting infielder. Unless they address this via trade, it’s difficult to imagine that fourth infielder having the offensive impact of Moustakas. A trade will also naturally weaken the Indians elsewhere on the roster, whether now or down the road. On a positive note, there are scenarios in which this all leads to a permanent Nolan Jones call-up sometime in the summer of 2020.

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In any case, the clock is beginning to speed up on the Tribe’s roster gaps. With such an obvious free agent target now unavailable, Cleveland needs to gather some momentum in terms of improving a roster that won 93 games in 2019.