With June here it’s a good time to start thinking about possible trades. The trade possibilities for the Royals for Whit Merrifield are intriguing and can be compared to what the Oakland Athletics got from the Royals for Ben Zobrist. If you remember, the Royals traded two pitchers to get Ben Zobrist: Sean Manaea, the club’s number four prospect at the time, and Aaron Brooks. Brooks had made a brief appearance at the major league level prior to the trade but would be targeted for AAA with the A’s. Manaea was the centerpiece of the deal going to Oakland. He would be assigned to AA. In addition to receiving Zobrist, the Royals received $2 million from Oakland, much more than soda money, and would cover the money remaining to be paid to Zobrist for the season.
So what should we take from this? Well, versatility is more coveted in the game today than it was when the Royals traded for Ben Zobrist in 2015. That should make Whit Merrifield more valuable in that aspect than Zobrist was. Whit is better offensively than Zobrist was at the time of that trade. Whit also has shown that he can be one of the best second basemen in baseball if a team wants to just plug him in there. Add to all of this that Ben Zobrist was in his walk year in 2015 but Whit is signed to a very team-friendly contract through 2023 and it’s clear that Whit is much more valuable today than Zobrist was in 2015.
Now that we understand Whit Merrifield’s value compared to 2015 Ben Zobrist, and we know what it took for the Royals to trade for Zobrist, we move to thinking about what the Royals should ask for Whit. With Whit only making $1 million this year, throwing in money to help with his salary is not an issue for either side in the trade but the Royals should prepare to include whatever is remaining to be paid to Whit for 2019 in the trade. In fact the Royals should be willing to throw in more money if it helps “buy” them a better prospect. In return, the Royals should be looking to receive one of the top prospects in the other team’s organization. The position that player currently plays, much like how a batter gets on base, should not matter. Get the talent. You can always move that player or another one of your players to a different position or flip him in another trade for what you need when it’s time to contend.. If the player is a pitcher then nobody has to change positions. The Royals should be focused on quality and not quantity. I would think the Royals should ask for a top prospect in the organization and another in that team’s top 15-20 prospects. But it’s hard to say what they can get until they start talking with teams.
In addition to everything already mentioned about Whit’s value, the fact that he’s signed to a team-friendly contract through 2023 means that the Royals do not need to rush and can be rather picky about what they get back. They could even keep Whit and try again next year if they don’t like the offers. However, the longer the Royals wait the less time that is left on his contract and therefore the less value that aspect has for the trade partner.
For those who love Whit Merrifield on the Royals, this is not simply to get rid of Whit. This is to improve the team. Fans like going to the ballpark to see their favorite players but they go more often to see a winning team. Dayton Moore owes it to Royals fans to build winning teams and not just hold on to guys the fans like. Believe it or not, the fans will also like the players who come to the team and make it a winner. Hopefully someday the Royals will spend the money they should spend and can do some of both, but right now the job in front of Dayton Moore is to build another winner and hopefully this time sustain success. You can do that in any market in baseball.
The bottom line for the Royals with Whit is that the team needs to use him to acquire more talent. The club can get back a player who will eventually be better than Whit and/or multiple players comparable to him. That’s what the Royals need to do. We will see if it happens this summer. I would put the odds of trading Whit this season at about 10%. I hope we get the 10%.