Trade speculation always swirls around the KC Royals’ most versatile player, but dealing him now would be shocking.
No matter how well he plays or what he does, folks still urge the KC Royals to trade Whit Merrifield. The notion arises from the somewhat paradoxical concept that teams must, before their good players start becoming not-so-good players, trade them for prospects. The logic is, of course, that clubs sacrifice present value for future value, and the concept is only sound and efficient when bad teams improve by forgoing immediate success for assured future reward.
General Manager Dayton Moore goes into this year’s Winter Meetings knowing teams will check in with him about Merrifield; some undoubtedly already have, because players like Merrifield are in constant demand. Flooding a paragraph or two here with statistics to prove he’s the best all-around player on Kansas City’s major league roster isn’t necessary—that he is, is simply fact. Someday, Bobby Witt Jr. will likely take his place, but that time hasn’t arrived.
Trading Merrifield may have made sense a year or two ago, when he’d blossomed into a star of unexpected magnitude. The Royals had transformed themselves from World Champions to doormats in agonizingly short order and much could have been gained from dealing the two-time major league hits leader for a passel of prospects; Merrifield wasn’t going to make the Royals contenders all by himself.
Things are different now. Mike Minor’s recent signing completed and strengthened a promising starting rotation. The bullpen is good again. Adalberto Mondesi and Nicky Lopez give the Royals the best double play combination they’ve had in years and Hunter Dozier may be the first baseman the team has been searching for since Eric Hosmer headed West.
And a flock of talented speedsters, supplemented most recently by Michael A. Taylor’s signing, provide promise of an outfield tailor-made for Kauffman Stadiums expansive outfield.
Trading Merrifield now, which is a possibility, would give the Royals more of what they already have—prospects—but at a time when the club is about to win again. They won’t be World Series champs next season, or even play in the Fall Classic, but they’ll be competitive and may resemble the 2013 team that chased a playoff spot into mid-August before finishing with the franchise’s first winning record since 2003.
Now more than ever, the Royals need Whit Merrifield. He’s the most versatile player they have. He’s the best leadoff hitter they’ve had in a long time. He’s the type of workmanlike, unassuming veteran leader the team lost when Alex Gordon retired. He’s inexpensive because he’s worth more than he’s paid and under team control for the next two seasons (with an option for 2023).
No, now isn’t the time to trade Merrifield. That’s why dealing him this week would be a bombshell.
There will be news made at baseball’s first virtual Winter Meetings. How much the KC Royals make remains to be seen.