The Brewers have acquired third baseman Mike Moustakas from the Royals in exchange for outfielder Brett Phillips and right-handed pitcher Jorge Lopez. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan was the first to break news of the deal late Friday night:
Per source: The Royals have agreed to a deal with the Brewers for Mike Moustakas for Minor Leaguers Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) July 28, 2018
The Brewers’ decision to trade for Moustakas is odd to say the least, as their gaping holes are at shortstop and in the starting rotation — not at third base, where they already have the ultra-dependable Travis Shaw. They’ll shift Shaw to second base, as manager Craig Counsell told reporters Friday night, where he has never appeared in a major-league game, thus displacing the platoon of Hernan Perez and Brad Miller that had been holding down that spot since Jonathan Villar went on the DL. If you think it’s a recipe for failure to turn a non-middle infielder into a second baseman in the heat of a playoff race, your concerns are certainly understood.
Moustakas is a veteran slugger with World Series experience who already has 20 homers and owns a 111 OPS+ this season, but he isn’t necessarily a cure-all solution for the Brewers’ slumping offense, which has slashed a meager .243/.318/.394 in July. Moustakas has posted a subpar .191/.276/.426 slash line this month, and he had a terrible June, slashing .217/.284/.380.
The Royals get back a rather impressive haul for a player that they were likely to lose after the season anyway. Both Phillips and Lopez are still technically rookies, but each has made big-league contributions over multiple seasons. The 24-year-old Phillips, a former top prospect who Milwaukee acquired from Houston in the 2015 Carlos Gomez trade, has struggled mightily over 24 major-league plate appearances this season, posting a miserable .523 OPS, but he hit .276/.351/.448 with four homers and five steals over 98 PAs in his first taste of big-league action last year. He’s been solid but unspectacular over 299 plate appearances at Triple-A Colorado Spring in 2018, hitting .240/.331/.411 with six homers and 11 steals. He will join the Royals’ major-league club immediately, and it’s quite possible that Phillips, who is highly regarded for his plus defense, will immediately slot in as Kansas City’s starting center fielder.
Lopez, 25, has posted a 2.75 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 10 relief appearances (19.2 innings) spanning six different big-league stints this year. He’s struggled at Triple-A Colorado Springs, posting a 5.65 ERA and 1.50 WHIP with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks over 28.2 innings, though his ERA can likely be partially blamed on the ridiculous hitters’ environment that exists in the Sky Sox’s home park. He’ll initially report to Triple-A Omaha, but before the season is over, he should provide some much-needed relief (no pun intended) to a Royals bullpen that has posted a majors-worst 5.41 ERA in 2018.