Just before Christmas the Cincinnati Reds designated infielder Mike Moustakas for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot needed after signing catcher Curt Casali. There was next to no chance that anyone would claim him and take on his remaining salary, but as these things go there is a process that has to be followed. Today Moustakas cleared waivers and was officially released by the organization.

Cincinnati will still owe him his salary that was due this year, and if he signs a free agent deal with another team it doesn’t change that – the other team will also just be paying him an additional salary. The Reds will pay Moustakas $22,000,000 in 2023 – $18,000,000 for the season and then a $4,000,000 buyout for not picking up his 2024 option year.

Moustakas, who signed what was (and remains) the largest free agent deal in the history of the franchise at $64,000,000, never really got going in Cincinnati. After hitting 35 home runs and being an All-Star in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers, Moustakas hit just 21 home runs in 184 games for the Reds while posting a .683 OPS. Staying healthy was an issue for the infielder, who missed more than half of the season in 2021 and only played in 78 games in 2022.

The Cincinnati Reds don’t have any player under contractual obligation beyond the 2023 season. Joey Votto has an option for the 2024 season at $20,000,000 or the team can buy him out and pay him $7,000,000 to not play for them. Everyone else on the 40-man roster is either under a 1-year contract for 2023 or is still pre-free agency. That gives Cincinnati tons of wiggle room on what they want to do moving forward, but also means that there’s probably tons of work that remains if the team is going to go from 62 wins to the playoffs at some time in the future.

24 Responses

  1. Ryan

    22 Million to go away. There’s something seriously wrong with these contract structures

    • David

      I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Which is why “Dick Williams” the younger is no longer working in the Reds’ front office.

      It’s really kind of impossible to get inside a player’s head and figure out why Moustakas came to not care about being in shape and playing well for the Reds.

      Reading between the lines, I think Krall got fed up with his attitude and his negative effect in the clubhouse while he was here. At least that’s how I get it. Krall in particular wanted him gone. If this was left up to David Bell, he would likely still be on the 40 man roster.

      • MK

        How do you know about his attitude? Don’t believe I ever heard of an attitude problem with him. His body certainly let him down but that happens and sometimes quickly.

      • David

        Why did he never appear to be “in shape”? He was overweight after the 2020 season. Constantly injured, with pulled muscles, etc.

        Poor off-season conditioning. After 2021, I really expected him to show up in camp much “fitter”; ie, lose weight, be in better playing shape. This is totally on Moustakas. He was being paid 22 Mill a year as a professional athlete.
        I’m sure Mike Moustakas is a personable, likeable guy. He’s not a immoral lowlife criminal. But he did not appear to be willing to work hard enough to be in condition to play ML baseball at his present age.
        A lot of guys are at least in good condition, even if their reflexes start to fade.
        You can criticize Pham for his attitude (at times), but he did not come to camp out of shape last Spring. And he and Moustakas are about the same age.
        What other conclusion can you draw? Who knows what was said between people in the Front Office, his agent and Mike Moustakas?

  2. Mark Moore

    I hope he can find it within himself to get healthy and compete somewhere. This is the official end of the line for my 3M/4M running commentary.

  3. Colorado Red

    I could be wrong, but I thought that if another team signs him, the money they paid would come off of the 24 Mil the Red owe, am I wrong. Happens a lot.

    • Mark Moore

      League minimum is all any other team will pay. So less than $1M. And a pro-rated league minimum if the doesn’t sign by the start of the season.

      Nice work if you can get it … 😀

  4. LDS

    MLB teams routinely sign contracts that we would be fired for in the “real world”. But, at least, he’s gone now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he retired. He has his money and seemed to have little motivation to play – at least, while he was with the Reds.

  5. Melvin

    “The Cincinnati Reds don’t have any player under contractual obligation beyond the 2023 season”.

    Sounds like a sale coming. We can only hope. 🙂

    • David

      My honest hope is that they offer Tyler Stephenson, Jonathon India and some other guys (to be judged by the 2023 season) some contract extensions.
      Maybe Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft and Alexis Diaz too.

    • JayTheRed

      I am praying daily that this is the case.

    • MBS

      The Votto era is coming to an end after this season, hopefully that includes the Castellini era as well. Either way we’ve got some pieces that a new era can be built on.

      @David, I agree with you about offering extensions to Stephenson, and India. I’d both (6Y x 10M). Following 23, if warranted I’d make the same offers to the pitchers you mentioned.

  6. Michael B. Green

    I think Cueto is going to make a decision soon. Let’s hope that Johnny and Joey get to go out as Reds in 2023. If he pitches well, we could lose Johnny at the Trade Deadline but tipping the cap to Joey and Johnny during all bug the Dog Days of Summer is doing right by Reds fans.

  7. Optimist

    This is the turning the corner move as far as roster construction is concerned. The only other consequential step remaining is a sale, or change in the managing partner. Extremely clean baseball structure at 2023 season’s end, even Joey at $7m +1$ may be worthwhile.

    • JayTheRed

      I wonder if Votto does have a comeback season of sorts do they sign him to the option or if they are selling the team, I think they dump him.

  8. Kevin Patrick

    I don’t think Moustakas wanted things to end this way in Cincinnati. I think he wanted to lead the franchise. I don’t question his commitment to trying to be good either. I think it more likely his shortcomings as a player were exposed when surrounded by lesser players and injury. His power worked when surrounded by other bats in Milwaukee and K.C. The Reds were counting on him for more…and counting on others around him in the line up to get on base more. It didn’t happen…he wasn’t pitched beach balls because there weren’t guys on base. This is what ended up happening. Assuming Moose has no lingering effects from injury, I expect that were he surrounded by the right kind of players in a lineup that he would still contribute. Unless somebody knows with absolute certainty that he was lazy and that he was a poor clubhouse presence, I think it poor tasted to throw his character under the bus. When I met him at Redsfest a couple years ago, he didn’t seem like he had poor character. I think he was very optimistic and pleased to be in Cincy. I’m sad for all of us it didn’t work out.

  9. Rcsodak

    Now we’ll get to see him on a competent NL team and rake.

    • scotly50

      It would be fitting for the Castellini group.

  10. GreatRedLegsFan

    Next season will be the last for Votto and finally his contract will be off the books. Also, there’re several players that will have their last chance to crack or remain in the active roster, like Senzel.

  11. DataDumpster

    There is “tons of wiggle room… and tons of works needed to be done…” sums it up nicely. The question is who will be the controlling owner, principal GM/operator, and manager sanctioned to complete this work after 2023? A clean slate like this would seem to be a fetching happenstance for a whole host of moneybags, bosses, proven entities and opportunists.

  12. Doc4uk

    Can pick up Tommy Lastella for league minimum and if he works out then that would make up for half of Moustakis mistake

  13. AMDG

    I never really understood this signing.

    He was a subpar defender who didn’t really have a position to play with Suarez at 3B, and was only slightly above average as a hitter.

    But he came to Cincy with a career OPS+ around 100, and even in his “best” years (the years with the Brewers) his OPS+ was only 112. Jake Fraley has an OPS+ of 112 as a Red, and nobody is throwing away $20+ million for him.

    Before arriving in Cincy, Moose never showed much of an ability to get on base. And the only really good attribute was his ability to hit the ball over the fence, but he wasn’t a good enough hitter to convert those HR’s into RBI’s.

    The contract seemed to be an overpay for a guy who profiled as a humdrum #5 or #6 hitter in the lineup. Of course, when he ended up hitting like a #9 hitter, the contract turned out to be a horrible overpay.

    • MBS

      Dick W, was looking for some veterans who could help build a winning culture with him and Castellanos, even Shogo could fit in that mix. Clearly it backfired. I didn’t mind the attempt, but I agree with you, we had a lot of square pegs, and round holes to fill. Not the best choices.