The Royals have traded Whit Merrifield to the Toronto Blue Jays for infielder/outfielder Samad Taylor and pitcher Max Castillo, according to MLB.com reporter Mark Feinsand.
Taylor was ranked the #16 prospect in the Blue Jays farm system according to MLB Pipeline, #23 by Baseball America, and #33 by Fangraphs. The 24-year-old can play second base or outfield and was hitting .258/.337/.426 with 9 home runs and 23 stolen bases in 70 games in Triple-A. He has posted a solid 10 percent walk rate in the minors and showed good pop with 16 home runs in Double-A last year.
With a combination of speed and some power for a second baseman, Taylor excites the organization with his natural bat speed. The next step will be trusting that bat speed, allowing pitches to get a bit deeper in the zone before committing. His overall approach and in-game adjustments will be part of this next step, too, but the raw tools continue to be tantalizing.
Fangraphs praises his speed and defense, two things the Royals covet.
He’s both passive and prone to swinging and missing, a combination that works among players with big pop but often proves fatal for anyone else. However, his speed and defensive chops — he started at least five games at five different spots, including the four hard ones — give him big league utility, particularly in the slim-bench era.
Taylor was originally a tenth-round pick by Cleveland in 2016 out of high school in California before being traded for reliever Joe Smith.
Castillo was originally signed out of Venezuela in 2015, and has made his MLB debut this year. The 23-year old right-hander has served as a starter and reliever, and in 20 2⁄3 innings he has a 3.05 ERA with 20 strikeouts and 5 walks.
Baseball America ranked him #14 in the Blue Jays’ system, writing:
Castillo deploys a three-pitch mix led by a four-seam fastball that sits 92-94 mph touching 95 mph at peak. He shows the ability to miss bats with the pitch due to his ability to land it and some late ride and run. It’s a live fastball despite lacking eye-popping analytical metrics. His changeup is his primary secondary and he shows feel for the pitch, it doesn’t have tremendous velocity separation from the fastball, but it does have above-average vertical separation allowing it to play despite being somewhat firm at 86-87 mph. His slider sits 82-84 mph with short slider shape, it’s his best bat-missing pitch of his trio and it plays well off of his fastball and changeup looks.
Merrifield has spent his entire seven-year career with the Royals and is a two-time All-Star. He was having his worst offensive season, batting .240/.290/.352 with 15 steals in 95 games, but had come on to rebound a bit lately. He did not travel to Canada for the series against the Blue Jays three weeks ago due to his vaccination status, but indicated he was open to getting vaccinated to play in a pennant race. Merrifield is signed through 2023, and will make $2.5 million with escalators that will take his salary to $6.5 million.