By: Noah Wright
Royals infielder Whit Merrifield is one of the best second basemen in the MLB, while also being a top tier right fielder. Last year, the right handed speedster hit an impressive .304/.367/.438 with a dozen home runs, and a league leading 45 stolen bases. That resulted in a 120 wRC+ in 707 plate appearances. His defense was also on an elite level. At second base, Merrifield had 8 DRS, and 1.1 UZR at second base. That also includes 2 DRS from the outfield. In total, he was worth an outstanding 1.4 dWAR. In terms of fWAR, he was 2nd at second base.
Merrifield’s 2018 performance earned him an extension through the 2023 season. He followed up 2018 with an even better, and career best 2019 season. Through 477 plate appearances, Merrifield has batted .304/.358/.492 line. His power has seen a large increase, having his slugging nearly touching .500 and a .188 ISO. Overall, his offense has been worth 121 wRC+. In 2019, Merrifield has actually been playing mostly right field, but he has still been an average defender with 0 DRS, and -1.1 UZR. Overall, including 328 and two thirds innings at second base, Merrifield has been worth a .2 dWAR. So including his multi-positional versatility, very good bat, and team friendly contract, Merrifield’s value couldn’t be higher.
But the Royals are wasting Merrifield. The utility man is currently 30. Currently, the Royals don’t have a horrible farm system per-say, but most of their prospects are still a few years off from being impactful. Plus aside from Merrifield, impressive shortstop Adalberto Mondessi, and breakout slugger Brian Dozier, the MLB team isn’t really deep, or have any other talent. By the time the Royals are back in the fray of a playoff race, Merrifield will likely be in the later part of his contract.
However, not only are the Royals wasting Merrifield, they’re also hindering their own success. Trading Merrifield could really speed up their farm system. Currently, rumors have stated that the Braves, Phillies, and Cubs have shown some interest in Merrifield. While the Phillies and Cubs don’t really have super deep farm systems, the Braves do. The Royals could have a handful of the Braves young pitchers. That includes Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Kolby Allard, and/or Sean Newcomb. If the Braves get desperate, they might be willing to deal outfielder Drew Waters. But that’s not the only team that could use Merrifield’s services.
With such a team friendly contract, even lower budget teams could be showing interest. The Tampa Bay Rays have one of the deepest farm systems in the MLB. Plus with so many top middle infield prospects, Willy Adames, and Brandon Lowe, the Rays can trade from the org of infielders. The Twins also have some of the MLB’s best prospects, and Merrifield represents a long term solution at second base, and even a decent outfield option. While the Padres aren’t necessarily low budget, if they want a proven solution at second rather than trying Luis Urias, they could also send multiple of their shortstop prospects too.
The Royals are going to mess this up. Not only are they going to waste Merrifield’s prime, but it also really slows down the Royals rebuild. If the Royals were to trade Merrifield, they could get an absolute haul for him.