By: Noah Wright
Last night, the Royals extended second baseman/center fielder Whit Merrifield. Overall, the Royals will be paying Merrifield $16.25 million+$2 million in performance bonuses over a 4 year period. There is a 5th year option that increases the price to around $30 million in total. Overall, it’s a good signing, however it’s not without its negatives. Let’s take a look at this signing, and give it a grade.
The late blooming infielder put up great numbers for a second straight season. In 707 plate appearances, Merrifield posted a .304/.367/.438 batting line with 12 home runs, and a league leading 45 stolen bases. His wRC+ of 120 ranked 6th among all 2B’s in the MLB. Higher than Ozzie Albies, and Joey Wendel. Defensively, he was one of the best at 2B, having 8 DRS, and 1.1 UZR. Merrifield also played the outfield a good amount of times, 316 and a third innings to be exact. He also had positives marks in DRS (2) and UZR (2.1) while playing in the grass. In total, his dWAR was 1.4. Base running wise, he’s one of the fastest players in the game. Fangraphs gives Whit a 3.1 UBR, and his average speed is 29.1 feet/second (ranks within the top 50). His 5.5 WAR 2018 season is coming off the heels of 2017, when Merrifield posted a .288/.324/.460 batting line with 19 home runs, a 109 UZ, and a league leading 34 stolen bases, while showing similar defensive metrics at second base, and the outfield.
This extension also greatly increases Whit Merrifield’s overall value. A 4 year, guaranteed $16.25 million deal that can max out at $30 million is a good deal for a player who can consistently put up a WAR in the mid 4’s to low 5’s. This extension extends through his arbitration years, meaning that the Royals do not have to go through the arbitration process with Merrifield. With the Royals looking to rebuild, Merrifield could be a highly sought after commodity. However, it will come at a price for whatever team wants to trade for him. The Royals, if they trade Merrifield, will likely be looking for a very good prospect haul. Which is fair given Merrifield is a great batter, base running, and fielder. Merrifield on his own could easily bring the Royals back 2, 3 maybe even 4 top 100 prospects from a team.
Merrifield is a late blooming player. He was drafted in 2010, but didn’t make his debut until 2016, when he was already 27 years old. He’s currently entering his age 30 season. By the time the contract ends, Whit will be 34. That’s getting up there in age. By then, who knows if Merrifield is putting up similar numbers.
Even though by the end of the extension, Merrifield will be entering his age 34 season, this extension is an absolute steal for the Royals. Even if Merrifield regresses some in 2019, his floor is his 2017 season when he still put up a 3.3 WAR. $4 million for a 3.5 WAR player is great deal. Not only does this deal help the Royals, but it also increases Whit’s value. If the Royals do decide to shop Merrifield at the deadline, his value will be much higher than if he wasn’t given an extension. In the end, I think I would have to give this extension an A+. This deal works out for both the player, and the team.