So says Dejan Kovacevic:
Team president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington each affirmed, in unambiguous terms, that they want Russell and his staff back. Within the past week, each simply answered, “No,” when asked if there had been any change in how they feel. Neither elaborated because neither sees Russell or the staff as an issue and, moreover, they like what they have seen of the team’s motivation and instruction over the full season.
This probably makes sense. I’m no Russell fan, but there’s no question that he’s finishing the season with a radically different team than the one he started with. To the extent there was clubhouse dissent this summer it was understandable, albeit misguided dissent in the fallout of necessary, albeit depressing trades. That stuff happens.
The Pirates have been losing all year and are in a death spiral at the moment, but there’s not a poisonous atmosphere surrounding this team like there was around the Cecil Cooper Astros, and there’s not the stink of massively squandered potential like that wafting off of the Eric Wedge Indians.
Firing Russell would be temporarily cathartic, but ultimately pointless. The Pirates aren’t going to win with a better manager. They’re going to win with better players. And at present, there’s no reason to believe that John Russell isn’t the guy to lead them if those better players ever happen along.
The Brewers reportedly signed third baseman Mike Moustakas to a one-year, $10 million contract on Sunday. While the deal is not yet official, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports that the Brewers plan to give Moustakas a look at second base during spring training. If all goes well, he will be the primary second baseman and Travis Shaw will stay at third base.
The initial thought was that Moustakas would simply take over at third base for the more versatile Shaw. Moustakas has spent 8,035 of his career defensive innings at third base, 35 innings at first base, and none at second. In fact, he has never played second base as a pro player. Shaw, meanwhile, has spent 268 of his 4,073 1/3 defensive innings in the majors at second base and played there as recently as October.
This is certainly an interesting wrinkle to signing Moustakas, who is a decent third baseman. He was victimized by another slow free agent market, not signing until March last year on a $6.5 million deal with a $15 million mutual option for this season. That option was declined, obviously, and he ended up signing for $5 million cheaper here in February as the Brewers waited him out. Notably, Moustakas did not have qualifying offer compensation attached to him this time around.
Last season, between the Royals and Brewers, the 30-year-old Moustakas hit .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI in 635 plate appearances.