Royals GM Dayton Moore strongly downplayed the likelihood of the team dealing away star utilityman Whit Merrifield, as Tom Martin of KCTV5 covers (video link, on Twitter). Calling Merrifield “one of the best players in all of baseball right now,” Moore says “the ask would be just crazy” if rivals come calling this summer.
It’s sensible for the K.C. exec to take a strong public position on Merrifield with the deadline now in sight. After all, he’d surely need something truly compelling to justify parting with a player who has now fully established himself as a high-quality all-around performer who’d improve any team in the league given his defensive versatility.
At the same time, Moore has now set a rather lofty standard at the outset of the trade season. Perhaps the Royals really do not have any interest at all in moving Merrifield. If they’d like to consider offers, though, they’ll now have to deal with a public perception that any return must be overwhelming.
There is an argument to be made that Merrifield would best be utilized as a trade piece. The Royals seem to be a ways from contention and still need to gather up youthful, controllable core assets.
Merrifield is already 30 years of age, which won’t be a turnoff to contenders but perhaps places him outside the optimal range for the Royals. He’s signed to quite an appealing contract that would suit most any budget, making him a high-value trade target. We just ranked Merrifield tenth on our initial list of the top 2019 deadline candidates, but that placement would be much higher if he was clearly available. Merrifield would perhaps be the most widely pursued position player on the market if put up for bidding.