Blue Jays: The obvious trade candidate we’ve stopped talking about

Sep 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) throws out Cleveland Indians first baseman Owen Miller (not pictured) during the fourth inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) throws out Cleveland Indians first baseman Owen Miller (not pictured) during the fourth inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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There’s a talented veteran infielder that has been in trade talks for years, and while his market has been quiet lately, the Blue Jays should check in once a new CBA is in place.

The player I’m talking about here is Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals, which is a name I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about since the 2021 came to an end. I realize that last year wasn’t his best season in the big leagues and that he’s now 32 years old, but Merrifield strikes me as the type that should be a hot commodity once again this winter. That’s been the case for a few years now so perhaps teams are just tired of asking the Royals if they’re actually willing to trade their long-term star.

The reason that I think the Royals would actually make a move now is that Merrifield’s days as a premium player may be close to over. He still earned 3.6 bWAR last year and made the AL All-Star team for the second time in his career, but he slashed just .277/.317/.395 over a league-leading 664 at-bats. He certainly still did some damage, leading the league in doubles (42), stolen bases (40), and even sacrifice flies (12), but that on-base percentage is trending in the wrong direction.

If I’m in the Royals’ front office I’d be heavily in favour of making a trade now while his value could still be pretty high. There are plenty of teams around baseball that could use an upgrade at second base, and Merrifield has also spent time in the outfield as well. He also comes with two years of VERY cheap contract control as well, totalling only a ridiculous 9.65 million over the pair of seasons, and that’s including his “incentives”. What a contract steal for the Royals.

That cheap cost is both a good and a bad thing for teams that might be looking to acquire Merrifield, as it will undoubtedly drive up the price in a trade. The Royals are not projected to be in the playoff mix next season, but Merrifield is a popular long-time player in Kansas City, and it won’t cost much to keep him around. Trading him wouldn’t make a good portion of the fan base happy, even if it would be a prudent move to make during a rebuild. The Royals also have other infield options such as Adalberto Mondesi, Nicky Lopez, and Bobby Witt Jr, so they can also handle giving up the infield depth.

For the Blue Jays, I would argue that the fit is pretty strong. Merrifield could take over as the every-day second basemen in Marcus Semien’s absence, which likely leaves another job split for Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio at third. Merrifield is also a capable centre fielder, so he could cover for George Springer’s off days, or even if he were to hit the Injured List again next season. That extra versatility could be very valuable depending on how things goes in the health department next season.

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It remains to be seen how the Royals will operate once a new CBA is in place, and/or if the Blue Jays will move aggressively to improve their infield, but there’s a pretty decent match to be found here in my eyes.

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