Free agents who can’t afford to wait

Last offseason, free-agent signings came at a snail’s pace as teams opted to wait out the market and get better deals. The strategy didn’t affect too many high-end free agents, as J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain all got big money despite having to wait, and Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb still did pretty well in March. But not all players did so well. Lance Lynn, Neil Walker, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland were among those who had to settle for one-year deals at amounts far less than they probably expected.

With that latter group of players in mind, let’s look at some who could find themselves in the same position this winter if they don’t strike a deal soon.

Mike Moustakas, third baseman: Most of the players left holding the bag last winter were non-elite regulars in a market that offered alternatives close in value. After the Los Angeles Angels signed Zack Cozart, the San Francisco Giants traded for Evan Longoria and the New York Mets signed Todd Frazier, there weren’t many teams left looking for third basemen, which left Moustakas to return to the Royals on a one-year deal.

This year, with Josh Donaldson quickly signing with the Atlanta Braves, the already small number of third-base openings got smaller. Moustakas didn’t do much to change his outlook from a year ago, though this season he isn’t attached to a qualifying offer, and his expectations are probably lower after last winter’s experience. He’s still just 30 years old and resolved some questions about poor defense last season, but he wasn’t any better as a hitter. After 38 homers and a 14 percent above league average line as a hitter in 2017, he dropped to 28 homers and just 5 percent above average.

The former Royal and Brewer is a quality player, but he isn’t a difference-maker. If Moustakas doesn’t find an interested team soon, he might find himself in the same spot next season.

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