Former KC Royals All Star joins Philadelphia Phillies ahead of spring training

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As MLB teams descend upon their respective spring training locations, there are plenty of notable free agents looking for homes. It is not every offseason that fans see Cy Young Award winners and MVPs lacking a contract so close to Opening Day. Fortunately for former KC Royals star Whit Merrifield, his search for a new team ended on Friday.

Whit Merrifield debuted with the KC Royals, but is on to another team.

The Philadelphia Phillies signed the three-time All Star to a one-year deal worth $7 million. The deal includes a $1 million buyout and a club option for 2025 worth $8 million. All told, the deal guarantees $8 million for the 35-year-old utilityman. Foul Territory broke the news on X Friday afternoon.

Merrifield earned an All-Star nod this past season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He split time evenly between second base and the outfield, logging at least 595 innings at each. He slashed .272/.318/.382 in his first full season as a Blue Jay. His 94 OPS+ remained suboptimal, but swiping 26 bags while retaining his defensive versatility made him an integral player.

The Phillies saw that value, especially as Opening Day nears. The NL East contenders have Bryson Story entrenched at second, but Merrifield could serve as a platoon option to the left-handed hitter. Plus, Philadelphia left fielder Alec Marsh underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason and may not be ready for Opening Day. Merrifield can cover either spot while spelling other Phillies throughout the season.

There is some irony to Merrifield moving on from the Blue Jays this off-season. After all, Kansas City’s return for Merrifield all departed the organization this offseason. The Royals designated pitcher Max Castillo for assignment and he has bounced around the league since then. Plus, infielder Samad Taylor was sent to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for cash considerations. While neither Toronto nor Kansas City greatly benefited from the 2022 trade, it is hard to place a positive spin on the Royals trading away Merrifield.

This marks Merrifield's first first into the National League, spending his eight-year career with the Royals and Blue Jays. The late bloomer made his MLB debut in the 2016 season at 27, eventually playing 863 games for the Royals. His above-average performance was one of the bright spots when Kansas City faltered in the win-loss column.

Fans loved watching "Two Hit Whit" excel on those losing teams, but Merrifield lost plenty of goodwill following his vaccine remarks ahead of being traded. That, plus Kansas City's controllable utility options, made a reunion feel unlikely.

All in all, Merrifield joins another contending team, something he never experienced in Kansas City. Hopefully, he will advance beyond the postseason's Wild Card round with his newest employers, unlike the Blue Jays.