Yes...it’s happening again. I’m speculating about a Whit Merrifield trade. But the destination has changed and so has the asking price. Per usual, I need to throw out a disclaimer that I think a trade for Whit is unlikely. I think the likelihood of a trade to anyone is somewhere between me winning the Pulitzer Prize and Jorge Soler winning an MVP award. Also I haven’t seen any rumors about the coming trade situation forming into reality, but it makes a lot of sense to me on all sides. I think Whit Merrifield should be traded to the Phillies.
Why are they a fit?
Well in 2019, the Phillies received the second lowest amount of fWAR from the second base position (no the Royals were not 30th) with 0.3 fWAR. Earlier this week, the Phillies decided to non-tender their starter for most of that season, Cesar Hernandez. The 29 year old posted a 1.7 fWAR season where he produced 92 wRC+. 2020 would be his final year of club control and MLB trade rumors estimated that he’d earn about $11.8M. The Phillies ultimately decided that he was not worth that and cut him loose, creating a void at second base.
The Phillies DID try to fill that void immediately, signing utility man Josh Harrison to a one year deal, but I refuse to believe that they think he is the ultimate answer. Harrison is coming off a year meant to reestablish some value and he did the opposite of that, slashing .175/.218/.263. Harrison did continue to provide value on defense where he solely played second base for the Tigers, but I really can’t imagine why he’d be the real answer for Philly.
Furthermore, the Phillies are obviously focused on competing now. Last off season they signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen to roam the outfield. They also traded for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura that Winter. Those trades included young players/prospects Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, and JP Crawford as well as some lottery tickets and international money. All this is a year after they signed Jake Arrieta to a large contract to be their ace. And this off season they’ve already added Zach Wheeler to a 5 year, $118M deal. They’ve also been connected to free agent shortstop, Didi Gregorious (which could eliminate this whole article but who cares! YOLO!) So they are definitely in the “win-it-now” mentality and, after adding Wheeler, their estimated payroll would be around $160M i.e. they could definitely use a cheap player in his prime.
The Phillies also play in the toughest division in baseball so there is also an arms race to get to the top of the NL East. The “Baby Braves” are no longer cute and adorable as much as they are legit contenders. Obviously the Nationals got over the hump and brought home a World Series title. So if the Phillies are going to compete, their path to October is full of obstacles and this should provide more incentive to deal for Whit.
Upgrading from Harrison to Whit is like going from 3 working tires and 1 literal donut (with sprinkles) to 4 working tires with all weather tread. Even if Whit does regress to what Steamer projections think he will (2.9 WAR to 1.8) you’re still getting a added 1.7 WAR to what you would be running with in Harrison. Moving Harrison back to a utility infielder role is probably the best case scenario for them.
What’s the haul?
So we all know that Dayton has been asking for multiple major league ready players in any deal for Whit, which is a big contributor as to why a deal hasn’t come to fruition. Any team interested in Whit must be contending and most contenders don’t have MLB ready players to send out. Dayton Moore has also said that he’d have to be blown away by an offer. I don’t know if that’s posturing or if that’s really how highly Dayton holds Whit in his mind, but either way, that’s going to turn a lot of potential trade partners away.
Eventually though, something has to give and I believe that it’ll be Moore in the end. And if this package came across his desk, I think he’d certainly have to take a look at it. So let’s get to it!
Alec Bohm is exactly the type of player that should be involved in any hypothetical trade for Whit Merrifield. The Royals are...shallow...at both first base and third base in the farm system. MLB Pipeline has Bohm as their #1 third base prospect and the #34 prospect in all of baseball. He fits the bill for both corner infield spots with biiiiiig power and decent fielding. Last year across A/A+/AA, he slashed .305/.378/.518 with 21 dingers, 80 RBI, 57 BB, and 73K. Fangraphs also gives their blessing on Bohm.
Holy mama! That power is big time. Injecting that power into the heart of the 2021 batting order among Dozier-Soler-Salvy is salacious. And if he’s making his debut in 2021, you’ll have club control of him for his 25-31 age seasons; his theoretical prime for cheap. Yes please.
Pitching. The currency of baseball. Also the current strength of the coming core of prospects and you can immediately throw Medina into the Singer-Kowar timetable: as soon as 2020. He shares the same ceiling as Singer, Kowar, and Lynch have been assigned as a frontline starter. If all were to live up to their ceilings (they won’t), we’d potentially be seeing a 2015 New York Mets-esque type of rotation. Medina is also a fringe Top 100 prospect, missing Pipeline’s list but coming in at #96 on Fangraph’s.
Medina wasn’t producing quite as much as Singer and Kowar’s AA stints in 2019, but he’s also younger than both of them and has more AA experience than both. Fangraphs also believes that his ceiling is higher than Singer, Kowar, and Lynch. Sign me up.
But the fun doesn’t stop there...
No deal would be complete without a high upside gamble, right? De Los Santos is an MLB ready 23 year old (turns 24 this Christmas) with a lethal fastball-change combo. The Phillies aren’t sure if he’s a starter or reliever long term, but I know a certain team that can afford to give him plenty of innings to figure that out. It might be even better if he becomes a big presence in the pen for the Royals and I’d say that’s the more likely outcome if he were to be included in this package.
We’re missing something here....
There needs to be a buy low candidate in here to really throw off the potential criticisms forthcoming from and angry fanbase; someone that would make them say “Well if Player A works out this trade will be a steal!” instead of “Why do we always have to trade our best players for peanuts?”.
Every year I buy the new MLB The Show and start a new franchise and inevitably Nick Williams always finds his way into my starting outfield. The 26 year old lefty can play all three outfield positions but is probably destined for a corner outfield spot. Williams made his debut in 2017 and almost immediately lived up to his high prospect pedigree. By the end of 2016, he was baseball’s #49 prospect due to his solid hit tool paired with above average power and speed. In his debut season, he posted a 110 wRC+ in 343 plate appearances. Unfortunately his glove was not at all consistent, rocking a yucky -8.6 UZR/150 with -13 defensive runs saved. In all, he only posted 0.7 WAR. The following year he did a lot of the same with the bat (102 wRC+) but his defensive metrics got even worse (-15.8 UZR/150; -17 DRS). In 2019, his bat disappeared; slashing .173/.221/.259 in 86 plate appearances. That might be attributed to lack of consistent playing time as he was thrown into a platoon and saw only 17 plate appearances against lefties. Williams was demoted in mid-June and would spend just under a month in AAA. While there, he seemed to return to form, slashing .340/.402/.639. He was recalled on July 17 when Jay Bruce was injured and was relegated to backup duties the remainder of the season.
Sometimes guys just don’t pan out and sometimes guys just need a change of scenery. Yes, that might mean that we have multiple guys that aren’t major leaguers in the 2020 outfield, but there is upside in all of them and the Royals are the perfect team to give them the needed innings to figure that out.
How even is this trade?
Well if you believe in the MLB Trade Values trade simulator, it thinks this is very fair.
In my experience with it, it seems like going at it with a more reserved strategy would make it a bit more realistic. That’s what I’ve done here. If we wanted to get greedy, throw in Mickey Moniak, another former top prospect that has seen ups/downs. I don’t think that’s entirely out of bounds but for reality sake, let’s stick with the original.
Dayton gets 3 major league ready-ish players and that isn’t even including the centerpiece. That’s like going to Joe’s KC expecting to get some ribs, some pulled pork, and some burnt ends and they’re handing out free Z-Men (Z-Mans? Z-Man’s? Z-Mens) when you get there. If this haul were to come across Dayton’s desk, I’d hope he takes in the smoky aroma and his mouth starts to water, tempting him to devour the whole thing.
P.S. If you like my writing here at Royals Review, go check out a podcast I started called Clearing Waivers. Me and 3 buddies discuss Royals, Chiefs, Mizzou Tigers, among other sports stories as well as general bar banter. Check us out on iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher.