Could the Cleveland Indians bring Whit Merrifield to Progressive Field?
There’s only one week left in the part of the season in which teams across Major League Baseball will be able to complete trades and the rumor mill is heating up. One such report out of Kansas City comes as a bit of a surprise. While the Royals have been adamant about retaining Whit Merrifield in the past, they are using a different approach this season.
Now, “more open” is a lot of different than willing to trade. It’s nearly the same as Jose Ramirez not being untouchable, but the team would need to be overwhelmed with an offer. Given that a deal with Cleveland would send Merrifield within the division for the next three seasons, the Tribe might have to hand over more assets than any other team asking.
The intriguing part, though, with Merrifield is he has three very affordable seasons left on his contract. In fact, his 2022 and 2023 salaries combine to be less than $10 million. Due to the way his contract is structured, he’s set to make only $2.95 million in 2022 and then has a club option for $6.7 million in 2023. That might be the most affordable contract for an All-Star you’ll find on the trade market. Somehow it’s far more affordable than Ramirez’s team-friendly deal.
As MLB Trade Rumors says in their article, the timing of a Merrifield trade seems a bit odd for Kansas City. They have had a surprisingly strong season and the offseason additions of Carlos Santana, Andrew Benintendi and Mike Minor will see all three back next season. They even signed fellow All-Star Salvador Perez to an extension. So, why trade him now?
Well, this season could be the best opportunity to move Merrifield. The need for outfielders and second basemen is high and Merrifield can play both. That’s where Cleveland would most likely use him, in the outfield. That paired with the accelerating rise of prospect Bobby Witt Jr., who was just called up to Triple-A, might make this season the sweet spot to move Merrifield.
So far this year Merrifield is slashing an impressive .273/.322/.405 for the Royals. He also been able to log 21 doubles, eight home runs and 51 RBI while stealing an MLB-leading 25 bases. In the field, Merrifield has been playing mainly second for Kansas City, but has also spent time at both corner outfield spots.
As for his price in a trade, it would most likely be rather high. The Kansas City Royals are still built to contend for next year with most of their roster already under contract. The players coming back to them would have to include MLB-ready talent that can contribute at least next season if not right away.
The Royals are set to lose designated hitter Jorge Soler at the end of the season to free agency as well as outfielders Michael Taylor and Jarrod Dyson. As for pitching, Danny Duffy is on a contract year in the rotation as well as four veteran relievers in Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Jesse Hahn. Any of them could return, but in terms of planning those are the spots to fill.
From the perspective of the Cleveland Indians, they could offer a handful of younger talent that has MLB experience in addition to a few prospects. The names that come to mind are along the lines of Phil Maton, Logan Allen, Owen Miller, Daniel Johnson, etc. Players that the Cleveland Indians could find ways to replace, but would still be valuable to Kansas City.
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However, even a package that includes all four of those players might not be enough. Let’s face it, Maton is the only one of the group with proven MLB experience. The rest of them have just dipped their toes in or maybe were pushed in and somehow landed with a belly flop.
That would mean that if the Tribe want to add Whit Merrifield it might come with the cost of a top prospect in addition to those names mentioned above. It would essentially be similar to the package that Cleveland received from the San Diego Padres for Mike Clevinger or even Trevor Bauer. In both there were MLB-ready players included in addition to prospects for down the road.
The ultimate question, as it is for any Cleveland Indians trade, is what is Cleveland willing to give up? From a financial perspective, the deal makes a lot of sense. Merrifield might be one of the only players in the league with a more team-friendly contract than Jose Ramirez. However, the outgoing prospects will be a high price to pay.