Though the thought of second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield coming to Cleveland is enticing, the fact is neither the Kansas City Royals or the Guardians would likely want to make that deal.
When it comes to the Cleveland Guardians addressing the issues with their lineup, one of the unicorn-like names that always comes up among fans and writers alike is Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals.
And why not? The 32-year-old second baseman and outfielder hasn’t missed a game since 2018 and just came off his second All-Star season in which he hit .277/.317/.395 with ten home runs, 42 doubles, 40 stolen bases, 74 RBIs and a 91 wRC+ – and that would be considered a “down” year for him.
Since entering the majors in 2016, Merrifield has done nothing but produce consistently, leading all of baseball in hits two years in a row, with 192 hits in 2018 and 206 hits in 2019. Though he doesn’t have a ton of pop, he has averaged 36 doubles a year in his career (not counting the shortened 2020 season, where he still had twelve in sixty games), and while he doesn’t walk a ton, he has ranked in the top ten percent of the majors in strikeout rate the past two seasons.
Oh, and defensively, he was pretty much the best second baseman in baseball last year with 14 defensive runs saved and six Outs Above Average.
In other words, Merrifield is pretty much the exact type of player the Guardians are trying to find for their lineup.
Not to mention he’s on an extremely friendly deal, as he’s in the middle of a four-year, $16.25 million contract that makes him a free agent after the 2023 season, when he’ll be 34 years old. He might still get another contract at that point, but it’ll most likely be another steal for the team retaining his services.
But it won’t be the Guardians, as Merrifield is not now, and not ever, coming to Cleveland, so it’s time for all of us to part with this wonderful fantasy. Sure, the thought of Merrifield immediately slotting in at second base, maybe even the outfield, and bringing his career .291/.337/.434 line to the lineup often keeps us warm on the coldest of nights, but it’s a fleeting thought, nothing more than a dream that can simply never become a reality.
So why wouldn’t the Kansas City Royals trade Whit Merrifield to Cleveland?
The fact is, the Royals would never in a million years want to trade Merrifield within the division, and the Guardians would certainly never want to ship a haul of prospects off to Kansas City to help the Royals rebuild for the future.
Though to be honest, the hesitation might be more on the side of Cleveland. Merrifield is in his 30s, likely unable to help the Royals when they might finally be ready to contend. Trading him even to a division rival might only result in a few years of pain before he hangs it up.
For the Guardians, however, they would likely have to give up an astronomical haul to acquire Merrifield (who also led all of baseball with the fastest home run trot in 2020, so there’s that too, baby!). That’s just the price of doing business within the division, especially for a two-time All-Star. And it’s doubtful Cleveland would want to face a major part of what would become the Royals’ core for the next decade. Do the Guardians really want to face, say, Zach Plesac every single year? Or find that Nolan Jones becomes an absolute stud, dominating his original organization nineteen times a year?
These are frightening propositions, and should be enough to scare the Guardians away entirely. Better to stick to the bountiful options outside the division – you’ll hear us screaming about Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds from the mountaintops until it either happens or is officially dead.
But the thought of Whit Merrifield will always remain a tantalizing idea, locked away in the Cleveland baseball dream vault, nestled next to that team-friendly Francisco Lindor extension that never happened and, of course, a victory in the 2016 World Series.