Could this be the year the KC Royals deal away the most versatile player they have?
No Kansas City trade discussion is ever complete until Whit Merrifield’s name comes up, and that won’t stop until he’s traded, leaves for free agency, or retires. Proponents of trading Merrifield rely, of course, on the theory that trading him now, before his value diminishes, will reap a wealth of promising young prospects.
The detailed arguments for not trading Merrifield are well-chronicled, including in a recent piece in this very space. Suffice it to say for present purposes that losing him would tear an ill-timed hole in the Royals, a team improved by Dayton Moore’s savvy offseason signings and seemingly on the verge of flirting with a .500 campaign.
Merrifield is, together with Salvador Perez, the glue that holds these Royals together. He’s not as quiet a leader as Alex Gordon was, but Gordon’s influence on Merrifield is unmistakable. Reliable and steady in work ethic and play, Merrifield is a leader who’ll do anything and play everywhere manager Mike Matheny asks, and do it all well.
He’s led the majors in hits two of the last three seasons and is effective in the leadoff spot; he turns 32 this month, but still has enough speed to steal bases. And he won’t be a free agent until after 2022, and then only if the KC Royals don’t pick up their option for 2023.
All those reasons support keeping Merrifield at the same time they support trading him. Even an average first-half will force his name to the trade talk forefront; the Royals won’t let him go if they’re contending, but if they’re floundering they might decide the time has come to collect on his value.
But just because the KC Royals can trade Merrifield doesn’t mean they should.
A lot can happen between now and July. But no matter what, three KC Royals are almost certain to be midseason trade targets.