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Cardinals face Brewers in second game of final homestand

Mike Moustakas (right) and Ryan Braun celebrate a home run in the Sept. 25, 2018, game at Busch Stadium. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Week after week after week anxious STLToday.com users have come into our live chats asking if the Cardinals would sign slugging infielder Mike Moustakas.

Week after week after week we have reminded these people that would not buck up for Moustakas while the team was still paying Matt Carpenter big money to either play third base or watch Tommy Edman replace him on the cheap.

Finally those questions will stop. And finally Moustakas will get paid for real after agreeing to a four-year, $64 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Those are impressive dollars for a hitter who took a beating in the last two free-agent marketplaces. Those are also overdue dollars, given Moose's excellent productivity with the Milwaukee Brewers.

And those are questionable dollars coming from a rebuilding team struggling to regain relevance.

You can understand why the Reds would want to deploy the powerful Moustakas in the cozy Great American Bandbox. You can understand why that long-suffering team would covet his leadership and winning track record.

You can even understand the team playing him at second base, since today's extreme infield shifts can help mask his lack of fielding range.

But if the Reds were going to take a plunge and spend some money, why give big dollars and long term to a player facing age-related regression? After all, the back side of the Joey Votto contract has become a huge financial burden.

If the Reds have money to spend, why not target somebody in their athletic prime?

Tipsheet will be curious to see how this contract looks in two years. And we're wondering if another team will take a similar gamble on free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Here is what folks are writing about this deal:

Keith Law, ESPN.com: "The Cincinnati Reds finished 12th in the National League in OBP in 2019, ahead of two teams in strong pitchers' parks and the underpowered Marlins, so of course, they just committed four years to a 31-year-old hitter without a position who has posted a .320 or better OBP twice in seven full seasons in the majors. Mike Moustakas might have been a good fit for a lot of clubs, but the Reds were not one of them. Moustakas did have a banner year in 2019, at least, his second-best offensive year out of the seven full seasons he has played in the majors, and continued to play solid-average defense at third base. He deserved multi-year offers, especially after two winters of one-year deals, and it's a good sign for MLB's torpid labor market that he got one. But this deal for this team is hard to fathom."

Katherine Acquavella, CBSSports.com: "The two main problems for Cincinnati is that Moustakas probably exacerbates the team's OBP problem rather than helping it, and that he has all of 47 career games at second base, the only place they might realistically play him -- and doing so forces them to leave Nick Senzel in center field. Moustakas was more patient last year, his one full season with the Brewers, taking the highest percentage of pitches seen of his career and posting his best walk rate, although it was still just a shade over league average, and he's still a weak spot in the lineup against lefties. The Reds have to be betting that his increased patience last year wasn't just something related to the Brewers or a one-year fluke, but is instead a new skill acquired at age 30 that he will carry forward. During the 2019 season, Moustakas batted .254/.329/.516 with a career-high .845 OPS, 35 home runs, 87 RBI, and a career-high 53 walks in 143 games. Over his last three seasons, he's played in 443 games, finishing with a slash line of .259/.319/.498 with an OPS+ of 113. Moustakas showed off his infield versatility after starting 40 games at second base last season. Overall, he played 47 games at second and 105 at third. Prior to the 2019 season, Moustakas had never played a game at second throughout his nine-year long MLB career with third base as his natural position."

Mike Oz, Yahoo! Sports: "The past year, Moustakas did a lot to bolster his case as a valuable addition for a contender. Not only did he hit 35 homers for the Milwaukee Brewers, he posted a career-high .845 OPS, made his third All-Star team and increased his value by playing 47 games at second base for the Brewers in addition to 105 at third base, his natural position. He’s now hit 101 homers over the past three seasons, which should help Cincinnati. Moustakas will play second base for the Reds, since they have the productive Eugenio Suarez at third base. He hit 49 homers last season with 103 RBIs. Moustakas should also benefit from playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark in Cincinnati, as well as being in a lineup with Joey Votto."

Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic: "Six years, $80.5 million. That’s the combined guarantee in Mike Moustakas’ three free agencies now that he has reached a four-year, $64 million agreement with the Reds. His twisting path to a multi-year contract is surely not the one he envisioned two years ago when he became a free agent at 29, albeit one attached to a qualifying offer, coming off 38 homers and a .835 OPS. But with his latest deal, Moustakas finally is getting what he deserves. Heck, some might even argue he is getting overpaid, considering he is now 31 and will move full-time to second base, a position he first played with the Brewers last season. But according to a FanGraphs metric that converts Wins Above Replacement to a dollar scale based on what a player would make in free agency, Moustakas was worth $19.4 million in 2018 and $22.3 million in ’19. The market undervalued him in part due to his .310 career on-base percentage, and in his previous two free agencies perhaps he overvalued himself. Well, all that is in the past for a player who helped lead his team to the playoffs in three of the past five seasons. Moustakas’ intangibles are part of his appeal — he is widely viewed as a good teammate, a winning player. No longer will he be the poster boy for what some perceive as a broken free-agent system. His new deal amounts to a makeup call. The industry did not value Moustakas properly. On Monday, the Reds effectively conceded the point."

MEGAPHONE

"He was a tremendously exciting player for us, a joy to have. It was hard to let him go, but we've got to keep an eye on our strategic objectives, which is prioritize the future right now.''

Mike Elias, general manager of the tanking Baltimore Orioles, on trading highly productive infielder Jonathan Villar to avoid paying him in arbitration.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.