In the San Diego Padres search for offensive firepower, the Kansas City Royals infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield makes an attractive trade target.
It is becoming more and more evident that the Kansas City Royals are contemplating trading their most valuable asset this winter.
Whit Merrifield is affordably under team control through the 2022 season with a team option for 2023. The All-Star has increased his OPS each year that he has started for the Royals. The late-bloomer has established himself as a reliable top-of-the-order threat who can play all over the diamond.
In recent days there are whispers that the Chicago Cubs have their eye on Merrifield as they look to shake up their roster. The Cubs have some young prospects that could be enticing to the Royals, and that seems to be what Kansas City is looking for in a trade. The Royals would likely want established prospects who are major league ready as well as a few lottery tickets within the Padres deep system. The Padres have several young men who fit the mold of players on the cusp of major league service time, and San Diego also has one of the best farm systems in all the land. A deal makes sense for both sides.
If A.J. Preller and his staff covet Merrifield, there is no doubt they have the players to get a deal completed. The Padres will have 40-man issues next season, and now may be the time to move prospects before they lose leverage in a trade. Next season, teams will be wiser of the Padres’ lack of flexibility with their roster. The value of players like Gabriel Arias, Jordy Barley, and Luis Almanzar will not be as lofty as it is now. The Padres will need to make moves eventually.
One would have to think that Luis Urias would be a centerpiece to a potential Merrifield deal, as the Mexican infielder would satisfy the Royals’ fanbase immediately after the trade of their best player. A pitcher like Michel Baez or Adrian Morejon also makes sense as each is ready for major league innings that the Padres cannot supply them with currently. Both young Cuban pitchers have the ability to be starters, but the Padres are stacked with starting pitchers. To the Royals, each pitcher would be an intriguing option in the rotation for the 2020 season.
This is all speculation. Little is known if the Padres have a real interest in Merrifield. Paying 3-for-1 or 4-for-1 in terms of players is a big commitment to a player. San Diego would need to be completely satisfied with what they are getting in the right-handed hitter. There is not much to be concerned with Merrifield, though, as he owns a .296/.344/.445 batting line in 546 games and 2,200 at-bats. Amassing a 15.1 WAR total in three and a half years indicates that Merrifield is about a three or four WAR player. That is certainly a valuable player. He is also a great clubhouse guy and the Royals 2019 winner of the Heart and Hussle Award.
In 2019, Merrifield stole 20 bases and has 107 in his career. He also scored 105 runs last year for the lowly Royals and their sputtering offense. Putting him in the lineup in front of Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, and company is something that will boost offensive production for San Diego. Whit Merrifield gets on base, and that is something the Padres have had deep-rooted problems with in terms of their offensive production.
The 9th-round pick in 2010 out of the University of South Carolina spent parts of seven season in the minors and has fought hard to bring his game to the upper echelon of the league. He will be 31 during the 2020 season but is expected to be able to contribute at a high level. His current contract staus is probably the best thing about Merrifield. He is due $5 million in 2020, $6.75 for 2021, $2.75 for 2022 (he may earn an additional $2 million in 2021 and 2022 if he reaches incentives in the contract) and has a $10.5 million team option for the 2023 season. The club may pick up the option or allow him to walk at the age of 34 for $750,000. That is only $14.5 committed to him for the next three years. You cannot get value like this anywhere. For this, the price tag for his services will be steep.
The Padres have the trade chips, and the versatility of Whit Merrifield could be a deciding factor. He has played all over the diamond, including- first base, third base, second base, and all three outfield spots. The Padres could be interested in using Merrifield in centerfield, where he has made 47 starts at the position and has played relatively well. He is probably not an everyday option but could be used in a flex position around the diamond by San Diego. A.J. Preller and his staff are undoubtedly eyeing this situation as the Royals begin to explore the idea of moving Merrifield. The Padres are poised to make some move this winter, and Whit Merrifield is an attractive trade target. Stay tuned.