The trade deadline is just around the corner, and while Dayton Moore has indicated it would take a “crazy ask” to get them to trade Whit Merrifield away, that hasn’t stopped fans of other teams to dream of scenarios where they could pry the All-Star from Kansas City. The fans that seem to imagine Whit in another uniform the most are Cubs fans.
The two teams have already come together to pull off one trade this summer, with the Royals getting left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery in exchange for catcher Martín Maldonado. The Cubs could use a leadoff hitter, as their production from that spot is eighth-worst in baseball, by OPS, with the sixth-worst on-base percentage. Second base has been a weak spot for them, as collectively their second basemen have hit .225/.310/.390. Ben Zobrist could be out for an extended period of time dealing with personal issues, and Addison Russell and Daniel Descalso have flopped at the plate this year.
However the Cubs may not have the prospects to get it done. Tony Andracki at NBC Sports Chicago writes that “Theo Epstein’s front office certainly has “the stones” to make a move to get a guy like Whit Merrifield and have no desire to sit and watch a “trainwreck.” However he also notes that the Cubs’ farm system lacks an “impact prospect” that it might take to get the Royals to move on Merrifield. Bruce Levine at 670 The Score hears the asking price is quite high.
An ideal fit for the Cubs would be Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, but Kansas City isn’t shopping him, sources said. That conversation is a non-starter unless the Royals receive three MLB-ready players who could help them right now, sources said.
The club may instead turn to internal options like David Bote or rookie Robel Garcia to man second base, or look for options on the trade market that don’t require giving up as much.
That hasn’t stopped Cubs fans from suggesting trade ideas to get the Royals’ All-Star. Let’s take a look at what they’re suggesting.
Alex Van Sante, Bleed Cubbie Blue: Cubs get 2B Whit Merrifield and C Martín Maldonado for SS Nico Hoerner, C Victor Caratini, and RHP Alex Lange
Maldonado has obviously already been traded to Chicago, so let’s imagine the rest of the trade without him. Hoerner is the top-ranked prospect in the Cubs’ system, according to both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, and the #2 prospect according to Fangraphs. He was ranked the #86 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball Prospectus and #100 by Baseball America. The 22-year old infielder was the 24th player selected in the 2018 draft out of Stanford and has already reached Double-A this year. He missed two months with a fractured wrist this year, recently returning. Overall, he has hit .262/.333/.447 with two home runs in 28 games so far. Fangraphs grades him as a 55 runner with the ability to stick at shortstop and they note a mechanical tweak has allowed him to hit the ball with more power. MLB Pipeline praises Hoerner for his “uncanny hand-eye coordination” and high-contact approach and note he has the ability to draw walks.
Alex Lange ranks #8 in the Cubs farm system according to Fangraphs, #12 by MLB Pipeline, and #14 by Baseball America. Lange was the Cubs’ first round pick in 2017 out of LSU and is originally a grad of Lee’s Summit West High School in the Kansas City area. Lange put up a solid season in 2018, with a 3.74 ERA in 23 starts in High-A ball, but has regressed badly this year with a 5.71 ERA across High-A and Double-AA with a significant spike in his walk rate. He 23-year old right-hander throws in the low-90s and features a plus curveball, but a violent delivery has some scouts projecting him to be a reliever.
Victor Caratini is the backup catcher in Chicago who has not hit much in parts of his first two seasons, but has had a great start this year, hitting .303/.383/.505 with four home runs in 107 plate appearances. The 25-year old switch-hitter has shown a decent eye and has solid, but not specatcular power. He profiles as a very solid backup catcher, perhaps even a starter, and is under club control through at least 2023, but it does not seem like adding to catching depth is a priority for the Royals.
How does this deal measure up on the site Baseball Trade Values?
Ryan Sikes, Da Windy City: Cubs get 2B Whit Merrifield for P Albert Alzolay and 2B Ian Happ
Alzolay was the #4 prospect in the system according to Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline, and #6 by Baseball America. The 24-year old right-hander was signed out of Venezuela and made his Major League debut a few weeks ago, and has made a pair of starts for the Cubs. Alzolay missed some time last year with a lat injury, but rebounded to post a 4.28 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 40 innings in Triple-A. Alzolay throws in the mid-90s, occasionally hitting 98 with “running action on his fastball”, according to MLB Pipeline. Fangraphs writes his power fastball/curveball combo is Major League-ready, but he will need to develop a change up if he wants to be more than a reliever.
Ian Happ is the second baseman/outfielder who some Royals fans wanted back in 2017 for Wade Davis. He was a consensus top 100 prospect and had an impressive rookie season in 2017 in which he smashed 24 home runs and hit .253/.328/.514, Happ fell off in 2018. He hit just .233/.353/.408 with 15 home runs last year, and has spent all year in Triple-A this year, with underwhelming numbers. Happ has been plagued by big time strikeout issues, whiffing 36 percent of the time at the big league level last year, and has continued to strikeout this year, with his hitting coach calling it a “timing issue.’ He is still just 24-years old, and is still learning to play the outfield after beginning his career as a second baseman. He shows tremendous power potential and the Royals have taken a chance on a power-hitting prospect with strikeout issues from the Cubs before.
WGN radio host Mark Carman: Cubs get 2B Whit Merrifield for C Victor Caratini and OF Kyle Schwarber
We’ve discussed Caratini before, and it seems unlikely the Cubs would be willing to deal him now that starter Willson Contreras is injured. Schwarber is a power-hitting 26-year old left fielder batting .231/.32/.481 with 21 home runs in 90 games with the Cubs this year. He missed most of the 2016 season with a knee injury, but has hit 77 home runs since then, the 24th-most in baseball. Schwarber is a patient hitter, and his 13.3 percent walk rate is the 16th-best in baseball among qualified hitters over the past three seasons.
Schwarber is a converted catcher with a big body-type, but his defensive metrics aren’t nearly as bad as you might think, and he has been pretty passable in left field. That could be more problematic in a bigger ballpark like Kauffman Stadium, however, and Schwarber may eventually end up at DH as he ages. Schwarber makes $3.39 million this year and will likely be much more costly than Whit Merrifield over the next few seasons. He will be under club control through 2021, not really long enough to make him a long-term piece for the next competitive Royals club. Schwarber is a nice player, and value-wise this might be a bit closer to an equal trade, but he seems to be a poor fit for the Royals.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Cubs fans are looking for trades where they don’t have to give up much to get a quality player like Whit Merrifield. A lot of fan trades around baseball seem to be “your player is so valuable, let me give you our three worst players!” Merrifield makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, but it looks like what the Cubs can offer does not make much sense for the Royals.