Royals yearly census: Should Whit Merrifield be traded?

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images /

The Kansas City Royals’ best player has had his name dropped in trade rumors for what seems like ages. Is this the winter the club finally gives him up?

Whit Merrifield means more to the Kansas City Royals than people think. The 30-year-old has been tremendous since making his debut in 2016, and he only appears to be becoming more and more of a household name. The city is lucky to have him as one of their faces of the franchise.

With that said, for the past few seasons, there have been countless rumors hypothesizing that the Royals could be interested in trading their super-utility man. Those thoughts were silenced temporarily when he signed a four-year contract extension, but they’ve resurfaced. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, though, Merrifield isn’t going anywhere:

Merrifield has been a well above average player for each of the past three seasons. Posting an OPS+ of 106, 120 and 112 in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the former South Carolina Gamecock is as consistent a bat as anyone. Leading the league in hits in back-to-back seasons, along with stolen bases twice in a three-year span, he’s cemented himself as a premier offensive threat.

On top of that, Whit can play multiple positions. After giving up the second base job to Nicky Lopez during the 2019 season, Merrifield shifted to the outfield and didn’t skip a beat. His solid defensive profile and tremendous baseball IQ allow him to excel at any spot, no matter the circumstances.

To put the icing on the cake, Merrifield’s new deal comes at an affordable price ($16.25 million) and will run through his age-34 season. Not a bad situation, right? On the flip side, this makes him one of the more valuable pieces in the MLB when it comes to a possible trade scenario. If the Royals get an offer that they can’t refuse, should they give up Whit?

Only if they get an offer they can’t refuse. The odds of that happening are low — and minuscule for at least the next six-to-eight months. Over the past several seasons, the club’s desired return to competitiveness has been around 2021. Merrifield will be 32 heading into that season, which could very well still be his prime. If it happens a year later, 33 isn’t the end of the world.

Merrifield’s game will age quite well. Sure, he relies on speed to swipe bags and chase down balls regardless of his position. With that said, he’s as professional as they come both at the plate and in the clubhouse. He will age gracefully, finding ways to adapt if/when he loses a step or two.

If the Kansas City Royals are serious about contending within the next three years, then they should keep Whit Merrifield on the team. He’s a polarizing figure, a good teammate, and a model of consistency in many facets. As younger players like Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi continue to find their way at the MLB level, having a guy like Merrifield around is paramount to their growth.

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Remember the 2015 World Series team? Remember Ben Zobrist? A bit older, but definitely not way over the hill. Not elite at much, but good at everything. One heck of a leader — and someone who’s easy to play with. Whit Merrifield could be that type of player and role model for the next great Royals team. Unless general manager Dayton Moore gets an offer that knocks his socks off, he shouldn’t even consider moving one of the greatest Royals of this decade.