When the Brewers traded for Mike Moustakas and Joakim Soria this summer, it was worth noting that the deals weren’t necessarily for rentals, as both had mutual options for next season. With that said, mutual options are almost never exercised by both sides, and that became the case today, as both players are choosing to test their luck on the free agent market this winter.
3B Mike Moustakas and RHP Joakim Soria have elected free agency. Both had mutual options. The 40-man roster now stands at 36. pic.twitter.com/jWE9vj2MlE— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) October 30, 2018
The Brewers acquired Moustakas from Kansas City on July 27th in exchange for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez. The man they call Moose would go on to hit .256/.326/.441 with the Brewers, bringing some much-needed middle of the lineup production with 8 home runs and 12 doubles in 54 games, driving in 33 runs.
That was fine production about in line with what David Stearns was likely expecting, but still maybe a little less than what they were dreaming when they traded for someone who already had hit 20 home runs in 98 games. Despite the move to a more hitter-friendly park, Moustakas actually produced a lower OPS for the Brewers than he did for the Royals. Once the Brewers faced a barrage of left-handed pitchers in the playoffs, the wheels fell off, culminating in a brutal NLCS in which he hit .138/.194/.172, including 1-for-16 with 9 strikeouts against left-handed pitchers.
In the end, even if Moustakas had accepted his end of the mutual option, there had to be some doubt the Brewers would. That option called for paying Moustakas $15 million next year, and while he may be worth that even as just a solid 2.5-WAR player, when the Brewers have a superior defender and a superior bat (at least against righties) in Travis Shaw playing on a much lower salary, that $15 million would have gotten a little more difficult to justify. Playing Shaw out of position at second base for half a season ended up not costing the Brewers much defensively, but there’s no question he provides more value at third base. Moustakas was a half-season luxury the Brewers likely couldn’t afford over a full season, and he wasn’t even that much of a luxury.
Soria largely pitched well after be acquired just a day before Moustakas to be one of the first late-inning options out of the bullpen for Craig Counsell, although he did miss some time with a strained quadriceps muscle and saw a hiccup in his effectiveness in the days following his return before ultimately righting the ship in the second half of September.
Like Moustakas, Soria’s $10 million option wasn’t likely to be picked up by the Brewers, even though he could have been a valuable piece to the bullpen in 2019. Soria will be 35 next year and relievers are notoriously volatile — as we occasionally saw in Soria’s 26 appearances with Milwaukee. While having him back would have ensured an imposing late-inning four-headed monster with Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Josh Hader, it’s also possible Soria wants to land somewhere where he could go back to closing games — and making more money on a multiyear contract.
Of course, it’s possible the Brewers think about bringing both back on different deals, but if Moustakas and Soria thought they would get less than the $15 million and $10 million their options called for, they would have just accepted their end of the deal.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference