So the Manny Machado domino has finally fallen. The All-Star shortstop is off to Los Angeles for the rest of the season. With the megastar hitter off the market at last, the rest of the league can start to make a few moves before the deadline and the playoff contenders can add a few pieces in their pursuit of a World Series crown.
Some of those pieces that could be on the move are currently located in Kansas City, where the Royals are an MLB-worst 27-68 and a massive 25 games behind the under-performing Cleveland Indians.
The poor state of the 2018 Royals can be described in several ways beyond just their record. They have a horrific -193 run differential, they are last in runs scored and are slashing 23rd/28th/29th. With numbers like that, you wouldn’t think that the Royals had anything to offer the rest of the league in terms of trades, but they do have one thing; Whit Merrifield.
Control and versatility
While the Dodgers acquire a megastar, they don’t have him for very long. Machado hits free agency this winter, but the same is not true of Merrifield. Before we even get to his production, the Royals hitter isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2020, and won’t hit the open market until 2023. Team control like that is very valuable, especially if the rest of your roster is expensive.
Merrifield is also incredibly versatile. While he has spent the majority of his time in the majors at second base, he has played some third base, a little first base, and in the outfield. He’s logged 110 innings in center field this year and while it is a small sample size, he has played well there in posting a UZR/150 of 17.8.
If he were just a league-average second baseman, Whit Merrifield would be a valuable asset to any team. Add in his production at the plate, though, and he could be a difference-maker.
While most of the big bats at second base provide their value with power, Merrifield does it with his on-base skill and legs. The likes of Javier Baez, Ozzie Albies, and Jed Lowrie have been blasting homers. They all have over 15 on the year already, Merrifield has just five. However, dig a little deeper and you have a hitter who is basically as productive as they are. Merrifield has the sixth-best wRC+ at second base, coming in at 124. Another player with a similar skill-set, Jose Altuve, leads the way with 143. That’s not a big gap.
Merrifield has posted a .307 batting average this year, with a .378 on-base percentage. For teams like Boston who are struggling to get production at second and third, or the Yankees with their inconsistencies at first base, adding Merrifield would give them production on the basepaths, the ability to give guys a night-off around the field without damaging overall production too much, and an improvement to the bottom half of their lineup.
It’s not just the AL East giants that could use Merrifield either. The Phillies were in the race for Machado, but they could use Merrifield’s bat in right field over the struggling Aaron Altherr or at third over Maikel Franco.
The Diamondbacks, just half a game back of the Dodgers in the NL West, lack offense behind their big three of Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock, and David Peralta. Merrifield may not be as energizing a signing as Machado, but he may provide teams with the same boost required to get them to the top of the mountain.