The Seattle Mariners have had an offseason headlined by ownership and payroll news when the focus should be on just making the team better. So far on the offensive side, the Mariners have added Mitch Garver, Luis Urias, Luke Raley, Mitch Haniger, and Seby Zavala. Hopefully, the club isn't done adding, and there are still several free agents out there including Cody Bellinger, Jorge Soler, and Whit Merrifield. Could Merrifield be the answer to the Mariners infield questions?
Whit Merrifield spent the majority of his career with the Kansas City Royals and was a speedster who hit for a high average. His best year came in 2018 when he had a slash line of .304/.367/.438 and a 119 wRC+. That was before his 30th birthday and he has been in a bit of a slow decline ever since. He has been below 100 wRC+, which is considered league average, for the last three seasons. Last year he hit .262/.318/.382 in 145 games good for a 93 wRC+.
Merrifield's Baseball Savant numbers don't look spectacular either. His average exit velocity was at a career-low 85.1 miles per hour, which was in the bottom 1% of the league. His hard-hit percentage was below 25% and he was in the bottom 2% of the league. Those aren't great numbers for a guy who will be 35 this week.
He spent last year splitting time mostly between second base and left field, and the Mariners have a few players who can do that already. They have Dylan Moore who plays those same positions and is a right handed hitter. In 2023 Moore played in just 67 games and had a .207/305/.428 which was good for a 105 wRC+. Moore will also be just 31 for most of this year and is only making 3 million dollars. So while Merrifield has the better batting average, Moore is a better power hitter, and they are comparable at getting on base.
The Mariners also have Sam Haggerty who can play the infield and outfield. Haggerty only played in 52 games because the club played Kolten Wong and Jose Caballero more than the switch hitting Haggerty. When he did play he slashed .253/.364/.341 which led to a 108 wRC+. Haggerty will turn 30 in late May so he is also younger than Merrifield.
It seems like spending some of the Mariners limited financial resources on a player who is so similar to two players the Mariners have isn't a wise decision. We saw in 2023 that father time comes fast for players like Kolten Wong and AJ Pollock who fell off the cliff hard. There isn't a ton of certainty with Moore and Haggerty because they haven't played a full season like Merrifield has, but they are younger and can play the same positions, and Seattle has prospect Ryan Bliss who could be an option at second base as soon as this season.