The Cubs are showing “continued interest” in Royals’ second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield, reported Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network earlier this week. The two-time reigning MLB hits leader is guaranteed just $15.25MM over the next three seasons (with a team option for a fourth) under the affordable extension he signed with Kansas City in January.
It’s not difficult to see why the Cubs are interested in Merrifield, but they (or any other suitor) will have a hard time prying him away from KC. Merrifield (31 in January) has been extremely durable and productive the past three seasons. Since the start of 2016, he’s taken 2,404 plate appearances of above-average hitting (.296/.344/.445, 109 wRC+), while chipping in elite baserunning and passable defense at multiple positions. The Cubs have an uncertain mix at Merrifield’s primary position, second base. Addison Russell is a non-tender candidate, and Ben Zobrist is a free agent. Nico Hoerner, David Bote and Robel García are promising options to varying extents, but none is a proven MLB contributor. Merrifield would be an unquestioned upgrade.
Of course, that combination of productivity and affordability has made him a staple in Kansas City, which hasn’t expressed any desire to let Merrifield go. Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore wouldn’t move Merrifield for anything less than a “crazy” offer (in the executive’s words) at July’s trade deadline. More recently, Moore admitted that no one on the roster is entirely untouchable given the club’s ongoing rebuild, although he then lauded the All-Star as a player and person, giving no indication the front office has seemingly changed course on trade discussions.
With the Royals’ resistance to trading Merrifield in the past, it seems unlikely anything will come to fruition with the Cubs or any other team in the immediate future. If Kansas City were to market Merrifield aggressively, other teams beyond Chicago would surely enter the fray. That said, it’s interesting that Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs’ front office have considered a Merrifield pursuit as one of the many options on the table for a team seemingly poised for a roster restructure this offseason.