On Sunday, the Royals inked their best player from 2018, Whit Merrifield, to a four year, $16 Million contract, avoiding his arbitration years and securing him through his age 33 season. Merrifield’s deal also includes $2M in incentives and a $10.5M club option for a fifth year (2023) with a $750,000 buyout, and comes without a no-trade clause. Merrifield is now owed $1M in 2019
Many are regarding the deal as a steal for the Royals and an undervaluation of Merrifield on his and his agency’s part, but it makes sense for Merrifield as well given his circumstances: he likely would not have made much more money in his arbitration years regardless, and signing a deal now guarantees him money should he suffer an injury. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Merrifield will be able to repeat his 2018 campaign, meaning that it is logical to cash in on a highly productive season while it still defines his value. Merrifield was a minor leaguer for eight and a half seasons with no guarantee of making it to the majors; from his perspective, taking a multimillion dollar deal while it is available capitalizes on his current value regardless of his future.
That being said, the contract does indeed appear to be a fantastic deal for the Royals, as they project to either get high value from Merrifield for a relatively low cost or to trade him to a contender for an immense return. Should the Royals return to contention with Merrifield continuing to produce at a high rate within the next couple of years, they will be paying a great price for a centerpiece of their team, with the option to keep him for what would be his first year of free agency as well. Should Dayton Moore elect to trade him, Merrifield he becomes even more coveted with the combination of production, versatility, low cost and team control that he provides. If the return to contention seems to be coming later in Merrifield’s contract or after it will have expired, Moore can flip him for great future value. Moreover, Merrifield does not have the ability to block a trade regardless of his potential destination, putting any team in play for the versatile position player. Time will tell how Merrifield’s deal plays out, but he is undoubtedly among the Royals’ greatest current assets regardless.
Featured Photo: Keith Allison, flickr