What should the KC Royals get in exchange if they trade Whit Merrifield?
Teams serious about Whit Merrifield will want him because they believe he’ll make a significant difference down the stretch, precisely the kind of impact Ben Zobrist made for the Royals in 2015. And if a Merrifield suitor consummates a deal, it will get an excellent, well-rounded, versatile player for the balance of this season and all of next, with the enticing options to flip him for prospects next July or exercise his option for 2023.
For all that, Kansas City must exact a heavy price—the quality of return is the critical consideration if the Royals gets serious about moving Merrifield. And they have all the leverage.
What should the price be? Quality starting pitching. Unless things change drastically in this season’s final two months, the current KC rotation is inadequate, and all its members save for Danny Duffy are under contract or club control for 2022. Prospects aren’t developing as rapidly as anticipated, and Daniel Tillo just started a minor league rehabilitation assignment after last summer’s Tommy John surgery.
And chances are none of the 12 pitchers the Royals recently drafted will be ready for at least three seasons, including first-round pick Frank Mozzicato, so Kansas City needs a proven big league hurler, or one on the cusp of major league-readiness. And at least one more starter, preferably a highly-ranked prospect.
The KC Royals could also demand at least a pitcher and an outfielder. The club probably won’t re-sign center fielder Michal A. Taylor (he could also get traded in the next week).
But no matter what the Royals determine their needs to be, they must satisfy them in any Merrifield trade. If they can’t, moving Merrifield doesn’t make sense.
Trading Whit Merrifield is a risky proposition for the KC Royals. They shouldn’t do it unless they get the right price for him.