(Originally Written January 17th, 2018)
Fans of the Kansas City Royals are well accustomed to beloved players and superstars being traded away to large market powers. From David DeJesus, Zach Greinke, Melky Cabrera, Mike Aviles, and even Carlos Beltran, the organization has lost plenty of stars to blockbuster deals. While some of these trades gave Kansas City key pieces to their 2015 World Series run, others have netted them nothing.
In 2017, despite being several games down in both the AL Central and Wildcard races at the deadline, the Royals decided to hold on to their key pieces for one last shot. They finished 80-82, well short of the playoffs, and those pieces are now likely dispersing to larger markets. One of the Royals remaining assets, Whit Merrifield, is an intriguing trade piece that Dayton Moore could very well look to move this offseason. There is a definite case to move the second basemen who is the playing the best baseball of his life – the 29 year old hit .288 on the year and slugged a career high 19 home runs in his second major league season. The appealing part of Merrifield is that whatever team he plays for next season will have long term control over his future.
Many question if Merrifield is just a flash in the pan, despite evidence pointing to his continued improvement. After being called up in late 2016 and tearing up the majors for most of his first and second months at the highest level, he hit a slump and was relegated to Triple-A which he would not return from until September. In the off-season, Whitley, as he is known to KC fans and commentator Rex Hudler, took up an extreme training and diet regimen to improve his quickness and strength. The goal was to make an impact at the MLB level as quickly as possible. There is no doubt that the training program worked extremely well as he made a large impact on the Royals’ season
If Kansas City chose to trade Merrifield, they would likely be seeking young prospects in return. The value of the young second basemen is mostly unclear right now, as organizations could value him completely differently than others. Kansas City should seek a package with a top pitching and a top hitting prospect at the very least. Last season, Merrifield posted 3.1 WAR – good for 52nd in the AL and 10th among fellow second basemen. With the Royals entering a major rebuild, having a star like that under long term control can help not just on the field but by selling tickets and merchandise.
Coming into Spring Training, Merrifield was listed as the favorite to beat out top prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. for the starting second baseman role. Despite the excellent play of Merrifield, Mondesi earned the starting role as Whit would be going down to Triple A. After Mondesi‘s struggles and Merrifield’s success, he was once again called up to try and make an impact on the MLB level. He did more than that, putting together a very good season as he solidified himself as one of the best in the game at his position. Kansas City should look to retain Merrifield for their long-term future – the second basemen is not a flash in the pan but rather a true star.