The Royals have already begun the fire sale this summer, dealing outfielder Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks and closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals. They are expected to move another pending free agent in Mike Moustakas, but might they consider moving players under club control beyond this year? If they do, Whit Merrifield could be among their most attractive assets. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Milwaukee Brewers are expressing interest in the 29-year old second baseman.
“The Milwaukee Brewers began pursuing Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield last off-season, and according to major league sources they are expressing interest in him again.”
Merrifield, who is not eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season, is hitting .284/.358/.401 with 16 steals in 77 games this year. He has been the seventh-most valuable qualified second baseman in all of baseball with 1.8 WAR, according to Fangraphs. Current Brewers second baseman Jonathan Villar has struggled this year, hitting .258/.303/.378, although the plan could be to move Villar back to shortstop to replace Orlando Arcia who has an OPS of just .485 this year.
Merrifield also provides some positional versatility, which could allow the team to plug him in anywhere on the field. The team did recently acquire infielder Brad Miller, who has positional versatility as well, but is a defensive liability at most positions, unlike Merrifield. One of the club’s top prospects, Keston Hiura, is also a second baseman, although there are doubts about his ability to stick there. Merrifield should also be attractive due to his low salary - he won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2019 season.
Despite some aggressive trades last winter, the Brewers still have the 11th-best farm system according to Baseball America. For a player with many years of club control, the Royals should probably expect two top ten prospects in the organization and maybe a third piece, although they may not be able to get elite Top 100 talent.
Rosenthal also reports that Danny Duffy would be a “fit” for the Brewers, but that the two teams have not discussed him. After a very slow start, Duffy has a 2.68 ERA over his last seven starts. However he has a 4.97 ERA overall, and is owed nearly $46 million over the next three seasons.