The Kansas City Royals are in a total rebuild and are ready to get a look at their young guys so extending Whit Merrifield is a curious move.
Four years removed from a World Series title, the Royals inked their best player to a four-extension that will pay him $16.25 million, according to Jon Morosi.
Merrifield, 30, made his debut in 2016 and has been the team’s super utility man. Merrifield led the majors in hits last season. He also led all of baseball in steals after leading the American League in the category in 2017. Merrifield had his name mentioned in trade rumors dating back to before last season’s trade deadline, but one of the most popular players on the team will be back, at least until the Royals can get what they want for him in a trade down the road.
A player of his caliber and versatility would make for a fantastic trade chip to continue the rebuild. Since he was approaching arbitration this winter it would have made sense to trade him in attempt to bolster the farm system that only has one prospect in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list.
The extension buys out his final pre-arbitration year and three seasons of arbitration. The deal also includes a fifth-year club-option that can top $30 million if maxed out.
While he’s only played three seasons in the big leagues, Merrifield has already carved out a name for himself. Knowing he was headed for arbitration the Royals probably could have gotten a team to overpay for him at the deadline and help speed up their rebuild. His age makes it difficult for the team to build around him. By the time the team is ready to try and contend again, he’ll be at the end of his contract, and on the back end of his career.
That’s why it will be unlikely Merrifield plays out the life of this deal in Kansas City. The contract is easily movable to the team willing to trade a couple of young cost-controlled pieces in order to make a push for the postseason.