With past Mariners trade target Adam Frazier now headed to the Padres, Seattle is looking into another contact-hitting infielder/outfielder. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Daniel Kramer (Twitter link) report that “the Mariners are making a push to” land the Royals’ Whit Merrifield.
The Royals have steadily resisted any trade overtures for Merrifield in the past, though recent reports suggest perhaps a small crack in Kansas City’s resolve, as the Royals are at least “more open” to the concept of a Merrifield deal. That doesn’t mean K.C. isn’t still putting a huge asking price on Merrifield’s services, and with good cause. Not only is Merrifield a quality hitter and major stolen-base threat who can play at multiple positions, he is also on a very affordable contract — Merrifield is owed only $3.5MM in guaranteed money through the 2022 season, including the buyout of a $6.5MM club option for 2023.
That option can rise to $10.5MM if Merrifield stays healthy, though that is still a very reasonable price considering everything he brings to the table. That control through the 2023 season is perhaps the key factor for teams, especially a club like the Mariners that plans to contend not just in the near future, but in this very season. Today’s 4-3 victory over the Athletics has put Seattle just 1.5 games behind Oakland for the second AL wild card position.
The 32-year-old Merrifield brings enough versatility to the table that the Mariners would likely deploy him as part of their outfield mix on occasion, but second base is the most obvious area of need. Seattle hasn’t received even replacement-level production from the second base position all year, and Merrifield would solidify the position for at least 2021 and perhaps for years to come. With Merrifield on board, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto would have the freedom to explore adding other outfielders or second basemen, with Merrifield then moving around the diamond as required.