In a move that will hardly come as a surprise, utilityman Whit Merrifield and the Blue Jays both declined their end of his $18M mutual option. Instead of re-upping for the 2024 season, he has hit free agency.
Of course, this does not mean that the door is fully closed on a reunion between the two sides. All it means is that the Blue Jays were not prepared to pay him nearly $20M in the upcoming season. Even if Merrifield picked up his end of the option, both sides need to exercise it in order for it to go through.
Only just recently named as the only Blue Jays nominee for a Silver Slugger Award this season, Merrifield filled his role nicely for the club this season, even if the year-end numbers don't directly show it.
Merrifield, 34, appeared in 145 games, the highest he's had in a single season since 2021. Along the way, he hit 27 doubles and 11 home runs with 67 RBI, 26 stolen bases and an OPS+ of 94. He remained a solid singles hitter, which boosted his batting average up to .272, but he didn't move the needle much for a Blue Jays club that desperately needed some additional offense in 2023.
In the first half, the utilityman extraordinaire hit .286 with five home runs, 38 driven in and 19 steals. His .734 OPS and 110 OPS+ were more than enough to earn him an All-Star Game nod, but he fell off rather dramatically in the second half of the season. In 63 games, he hit .256, including a month of September in which he hit just .181.
Moving forward, there's certainly a possibility he's brought back, but it feels likely that Merrifield's time north of the border has come to a close for good. With the emergence of Davis Schneider paired with a resurgent Cavan Biggio, there's already a bit of a logjam around the diamond for the 2024 Blue Jays. Not to mention, there are already clubs that are said to be interested in signing Merrifield in free agency, so don't count on a return.