While reports seem to indicate the Braves have soured on Royals 3B Mike Moustakas or that they may have never been deep into consideration on him to begin with, in terms of offensive best fit for the Braves playoff run, he should remain the gold standard.
That very statement alone is going be get met with plenty of backlash and “what about Camargo and Culberson?” arguments. But what everyone is failing to realize re: Moose is there this isn’t a Moustakas vs Camargo/Culberson fight we should be having.
The thing about the Braves potential pursuit of Moustakas is it is really Moustakas vs. the current offensive options off the bench for the Braves. A current crop that includes Ryan Flaherty, Michael Reed, Preston Tucker, Danny Santana, Dustin Peterson, etc. These are the players Moustakas would be taking playing time and ABs away from, not Culberson or Camargo. The versatility of Charlie and Johan are going to keep them in the lineup on a regular basis, and if the worst that comes from it is they are the first two off the bench in the 7th or 8th inning? Well, I think we should all be jumping for joy at that possibility.
Of course, if we twist this to a Moose vs. the current bench argument, all of this isn’t to say that if Moustakas comes over he is going to just be a possible expensive piece off of the Braves bench. I would still fully expect him to become the regular 3B, there’s no questioning or doubting that. But this adds a completely different dynamic to the Braves and their bench. Camargo may not see his name written on the lineup card with a “3B” next to it every day, but this leaves the Braves with a capable switch-hitting bat off the bench that has proven he can be at least a league average hitter over the past 500+ PA, who can also field four different positions (2B, 3B, SS, and LF) competently. The same applies to Culberson. There’s been no denying he has been a shining spot for the Braves in 2018, and whether or not that continues over the next 64 games remains to be seen, but he has certainly earned his stripes with his performance thus far.
If you want to thumb your nose at the thought of making a deal with the Royals and throw out the “Moustakas doesn’t add anything offensively we haven’t seen from Camargo”, it’s an argument that doesn’t hold a ton of weight. Even if Moose and Camargo/Culberson had identical stat lines with identical offensive profiles, being able to add an everyday 3B to free up a versatile player from the lineup on a nightly basis is addition by, well, addition. Camargo has value as more than just an everyday player. He’d become the current iteration of Martin Prado — or better yet, give the Braves two current iterations of Saint Prado, when you factor in Culberson.
Not only that, but Moustakas also adds another .200+ ISO bat to put into the middle of the lineup. On a team loaded with gap power guys (Markakis, Suzuki/Flowers, Swanson, et al) there isn’t a lot of firepower outside of Freddie Freeman. Sure, Acuña and Albies have put up big offensive numbers, but if you are trying to contend for a deep playoff run, putting that much weight on the backs of two kids that are barely in their twenties is asking for a catastrophic disappointment. Especially when those two and Freeman are top-loaded in the first three spots of the lineup. Collectively, the Braves are right in the middle of the NL in team HRs. But if there is anything we’ve learned from matchups against the Dodgers and Yankees in the past couple months, if it comes to a fireworks display offensively, the Braves just don’t match up with the big guns. Adding in another bat projected to hit double-digits homers over the next couple months may just be a necessary step to get over that hump.
So, what becomes of the bench if Moose is somehow added to the current Braves roster? Well, for starters Camargo and Culberson become available to be used almost anywhere every day. For example, by shifting Acuña over to CF and writing in one of those two in left, you gain Ender off the bench as a late-inning defensive replacement, while also getting an additional offensive boost by removing his bat from the lineup. You don’t have to push Ozzie and Acuña, with both coming off of injuries, as hard down the stretch, which would also free either of them up once a week to come off the bench in a high leverage situation instead of a Flaherty or Tucker killing a rally. If Swanson falls into one of his funks, there are both Camargo and Culberson to prop him up. The possibilities are almost endless, and that’s without even factoring in any possible injuries that could spring up.
Versatility. Moustakas adds versatility. That’s what this all boils down to.
Does it solve the bullpen issues? Nope.
Does it solve rotation depth? Nope.
Does it keep Snitker from shooting himself in the foot every night? Nope. But it may help with his bench management late if a couple of his broken toys like Flaherty get pushed out.
But it solves a huge problem of depth.
The Royals asking price for Moustakas isn’t going to be high. And hell, even if it is a touch higher than cash considerations, a couple lottery tickets, and a Ruiz/Sims type package, the number of options and depth one move can add to the offense is absolutely worth it.