With just a 19-39 record to show for the 2019 season, the Royals have the second-worst record in baseball, and are already looking ahead to next year. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that Kansas City is open to trading “nearly anybody on their roster,” with the obvious exception of a few key young players. Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier are two of “the select untouchables,” though it seems as if K.C. is willing to at least discuss anyone else.
This includes Whit Merrifield, despite the fact that the super-utilityman just signed a $16.25MM contract extension with the Royals before the season. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd explained at the time of the deal, however, Merrifield’s extension was something of a unique circumstance, as the contract only extended Kansas City’s control over Merrifield by as much as one free agent season (via a club option for the 2023 campaign) and thus didn’t offer much financial risk to the Royals beyond what Merrifield likely would have earned anyway in his arbitration years. From Merrifield’s perspective, he was able to lock in at least one big guaranteed payday in his late-blooming career, as Merrifield is already in his age-30 season.
From a trade perspective, that extension also makes Merrifield all the more attractive as a long-term piece for interested suitors. He is enjoying another strong year at the plate, hitting .300/.355/.508 over 262 plate appearances, with seven homers and a league-high seven triples to go along with eight stolen bases. Merrifield has significantly increased his pop (a .208 Isolated Slugging mark) and hard-hit ball rate (43.1%) from last season, though that latter number offers some promise of regression, as Merrifield’s xwOBA is only .349 (compared to a wOBA of .364).
Merrifield has spent much of his time at second base and right field this season, though he has experience playing everywhere but catcher and pitcher over his four MLB seasons. His age could be a minor red flag, though between Merrifield’s hitting prowess, defensive versatility, and long-term control, he stands out as one of the better trade chips available this deadline season. It’s also worth noting that since Merrifield is locked up on an affordable deal, Kansas City is under no particular pressure to deal the 30-year-old unless the club really wants to sell high. As Feinsand puts it, “the Royals will need to be overwhelmed by an offer to trade” Merrifield.
Besides Mondesi and Dozier, it’s probably safe to assume that other younger, club-controlled Royals players (i.e. Brad Keller, Nicky Lopez, Jakob Junis, Jorge Lopez) are also unavailable in trade talks. Alex Gordon is in the midst of a comeback year, though the veteran has already indicated that he wants to spend his entire career with the Royals, and thus isn’t willing to waive his no-trade production as a 10-and-5 player to approve a swap to a contender.
Beyond that group, any other Royal could potentially be on the trade block. Feinsald cites such notable names as Jorge Soler, Danny Duffy, and Ian Kennedy, though for the latter two players, the Royals would have to eat a big portion of their remaining contracts to accommodate a deal.