The Seattle Mariners still maintain they plan to be competitive in 2021. For that to come to fruition, they need to make an impact move sooner than later. One such impact move is trading for All-Star Whit Merrifield.
Now, the Mariners have let it be known that they want to give their young position players ample opportunity to perform at the big league level next year. So on the surface, acquiring a player like Merrifield seems like a foolish idea.
But remember, the team wants to “compete” in 2021, so adding an All-Star level player should be high on their priority list. Simply waiting and hoping you develop one by 2021 isn’t a recipe for success.
One of the best position players likely to be rumored available is Kansas City IF/OF Whit Merrifield. He won’t be cheap, as Merrifield has one of the most team-friendly contracts in the game. He is locked into a 4-year, $16.5 million deal with a team option for 2023.
But he turns 31 in January and the odds are a bit thin that the Royals will be true contenders before the final year of his contract. On top of that, Merrifield is actually coming off a bit of a letdown season, although his final slash line of .302/.348/.463 is still extraordinary.
But Merrifield struggled defensively and wasn’t his typical threat on the basepaths, causing his fWAR to drop from 5.2 in 2018 to 2.9 in 2019. A simple explanation for the defensive issues can come from his significant usage upgrade in the outfield.
A second baseman by trade, Merrifield logged nearly 600 innings between right field and center field, as opposed to 307 innings in 2018. The defensive metrics weren’t kind to Merrifield in the outfield, but he is still an above-average second baseman who plays a passible outfield.
Merrifield is a good player whose skill set should age well, but the Royals are said to be asking for a king’s ransom to even consider moving him. The Mariners shouldn’t consider moving any of the Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, or Logan Gilbert trio, but anybody after that could be in play.
The Royals are quite fond of their young infielders, but they do have some serious questions in their outfield, both in the short-term and the long-term. This is where the Mariners’ current outfield situation can be an asset.
With MLB established names like Mallex Smith, Mitch Haniger, and Domingo Santana, as well as prospects with MLB seasoning like Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, and Braden Bishop, there may be some grounds for legitimate trade talks.
When you begin to factor in all the variables, the verdict on this trade possibility doesn’t look good. Unless the Royals drastically lower their price, the Mariners are willing to part with Haniger and a good prospect, or maybe even both, this deal just has too many roadblocks to work out.
Adding Whit Merrifield would be a good start to a ramp-up philosophy to make a 2021 playoff push a reality. But at this stage, the cost simply doesn’t add up to a profit down the line.