With Whit Merrifield likely becoming available at the trade deadline, should the Padres consider acquiring the Kansas City Royals All-Star second baseman?
The San Diego Padres are in a tough spot moving into the July 31 trade deadline. With the team having it’s most successful season in almost a decade, the Padres will have a tough decision to make: buy or sell.
Currently, as of June 9, San Diego sits at 33-32 and only 2.5 games behind one of the two Wild Card spots. They will almost certainly not catch the Dodgers for the division title, nobody will, but a postseason birth for San Diego should not be ruled out.
For a team that has not sniffed postseason baseball since 2006, the organization might get aggressive at the deadline and choose to add impact players that may solidify a playoff birth. The front office has repeatedly stated that 2020 is when they expect the team to contend, however, and could choose to stand pat while this season plays out.
If the Padres do add, it will be for a player with multiple years of control. General Manager A.J. Preller and the front office will not make a move at the deadline for a rental player. The 2019 team is certainly exceeding expectations, but the fact of the matter is they are not ready to compete for a World Series title right now. Adding a player for a few months just does not make sense.
Luckily for the Padres, there will be players available at the trade deadline with several years of control. Nationals starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg would be two ideal targets for San Diego if they are made available. One position player in particular, however, might be the perfect fit for the Padres.
Meet Whit Merrifield: a 30-year-old second baseman for the Kansas City Royals from Florence, South Carolina. Merrifield made his debut with the Royals in 2016 at the age of 27 and has done absolutely nothing but hit since. He boasts a career slash line of .294/.343/.487 and led the American League in hits last season with 192. Not only is he undoubtedly one of the best contact hitters in baseball, but Merrifield is also a serious threat on the basepaths. He’s led the American League in stolen bases in back-to-back years and is on pace to swipe 30-plus more bags in 2019.
So, the question might be asked, why is a 30-year-old second baseman appealing for the San Diego Padres?
To begin with, Merrifield is on undoubtedly one of the more team-friendly contracts in baseball. The Royals signed him to a four-year, $16 million guaranteed contract this past off-season, where Merrifield will not make more than $6 million until the final year of the contract. For a team that has spent upwards of $450 million in each of the past two offseasons and is going to have to extend its young stars sooner rather than later, Merrifield on that type of contract is certainly appealing.
Obviously, his abilities on the baseball field factor into this as well. Merrifield is one of the best pure contact hitters in baseball and get’s on base because of it, something that the Padres desperately need. San Diego currently ranks 27th in batting average and 26th in on-base percentage as a team, and with how much the Padres’ strikeout, those numbers do not look like they will improve any time soon. Merrifield would undoubtedly give the team’s lineup a much-needed boost.
As mentioned earlier, Merrifield is an above-average baserunner and a legitimate threat once he gets on base. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Padres are one of, if not the, worst baserunning teams in baseball. While that might seem like a small part of the game, running the bases well is something that all elite teams do. If the Padres want to reach that status someday, they are going to have to drastically improve in this aspect of the game. Merrifield is not going to make them an elite baserunning team, but his impact will definitely be felt.
If there was interest, what would it take the Padres to acquire him?
The obvious should be prefaced: Merrifield will not be cheap. His impact on the field paired with how cheap he is will almost certainly net Kansas City a decent haul if they choose to move him. Luckily, the Padres have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and can afford to acquire a player of this caliber.
A deal for Merrifield would almost certainly start with the departure of Luis Urias. The 21-year-old second baseman is currently one of the top infield prospects in all of baseball and has spent the majority of the 2019 campaign in Triple-A El Paso working on small mechanical issues. The organization as a whole has been hesitant to recall Urias, despite below-average production from their major league second baseman, which might be a sign that they would not hesitate to move Urias for the right price.
While Urias is certainly a fan favorite, moving him might make sense. His ceiling is ultimately a player like Whit Merrifield: high contact, high on-base type of player that can slot into the top of your lineup. If the organization feels that Urias is still not ready to be successful against major league pitching, it would almost be a brilliant move to acquire an established player that is what Urias will hopefully become some day.
San Diego can get creative with what they would pair Urias with. The team could offer an impact position player, like Buddy Reed or Tirso Ornelas, and pair that with a low-end pitching prospect like Reggie Lawson or Osvaldo Hernandez. They could also potentially throw in Logan Allen and a low-end position player prospect like Gabriel Arias, Austin Allen, or even Ty France. The conversations will start in one spot and end in another, but the Padres have the prospect capital to be creative.
While it’s not likely, the Padres should consider acquiring Whit Merrifield. While Luis Urias would likely be on his way out, Merrifield’s impact would be felt almost immediately on a young team hungry to win the city’s first ever championship.