The Seattle Mariners are in the thick of a playoff race and, according to reports, are making a push to acquire an upgrade at the second base position. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported Sunday the Mariners are working to acquire Kansas City Royals 2B/OF Whit Merrifield.
The Mariners are making a push to trade for INF/OF Whit Merrifield of the Royals, sources tell me and @DKramer_. Merrifield is under control through 2023 at a reasonable cost (approx. $10M over 2 years incl. ‘23 option) and offers positional versatility, a good bat & great speed.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 25, 2021
Seattle has really struggled to get production at second base and Merrifield would represent an immediate upgrade.
Merrifield checks a lot of boxes in terms of needs for the team. Not only has second base become a wart in the lineup, the Mariners also lack the right-handed bats necessary to compete against nasty left-handed pitchers. Being forced to run Shed Long or Jake Bauers, both left-handed hitters, out there against lefty starters has become a glaring hole in an otherwise competitive lineup.
Merrifield makes a lot of sense for the team in the long-term too. He’s controlled through 2023 and certainly doesn’t break the bank. Merrifield signed an extremely team-friendly deal entering the 2019 season and has really provided surplus value to Kansas City for the last three seasons. He is owed just $2.75 million in 2022 with a $6.5 million team option for 2023. Not only would Merrifield fill a need, if M’s ownership continues to tighten the purse-strings, acquiring him would still leave the team payroll flexibility in 2022 free agency and beyond.
On the year, Merrifield is slashing .272/.320/.401 with 8 homers and an MLB-leading 25 stolen bases. Those totals equate to a 95 wRC+ and 2.0 fWAR. It should be noted, however, he’s posted a wRC+ over 105 from 2017 to 2020.
At 32 years old, Merrifield should have a few more productive years at the top of a lineup, with the track record to support such a notion.
Also Sunday, the San Diego Padres acquired Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier in a 4-player deal that sent three prospects back to Pittsburgh. Frazier is controlled through 2022 and is likely to make close to $10 million next season. That said, Frazier is younger and has outperformed Merrifield this season and has been a consistent hitter over the past few seasons.
The Pirates got Tucupita Marcano and two lower-level prospects in the deal.
Marcano is certainly the headliner return for Pittsburgh, though he is not a Top 100 prospect by any publication. He’s a good hitter with a utility floor, but probably lacks the upside of an impact big league regular.
So what should Mariners fans expect the team to surrender should Merrifield end up in the Emerald City? Well, that’s largely speculative at this point. Given General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s comments suggesting the team would absolutely not move pieces that would impact the future, you can almost certainly cross off any of Julio Rodriguez, Noelvi Marte, Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, or Brandon Williamson. After those guys, you get into the Juan Then, the Austin Shenton and Zach Deloach types. My initial inclination is Shenton and Deloach would be off the table here, but we shall see. Then makes sense considering the team would be dealing from a surplus on the mound.
I tend to think this deal is going to involve a couple of prospects in the 15-30 range, as well as the addition of a lottery ticket type further down the system. But again, that is total speculation on my part.
In any case, Dipoto seems to have a very good feel for what he’s willing to move this July. Merrifield represents a definitive upgrade to the team, a veteran presence, and a right-handed bat the team is starved of. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about what the team could potentially surrender in this deal. Prospect hugging in general can be dangerous, but I don’t get the feel of desperation coming from this front office.