Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but MLB.com’s Jon Morosi is reporting that the Cubs are showing “continued interest” in trading for Royals star Whit Merrifield. The second baseman can also flex to center and his contact-heavy offensive approach created an MLB-leading 206 hits and 10 triples en route to a career-high .811 OPS in 2019. He’s also very cheap by today’s standards, with three years left on the four-year, $16.25 million extension he inked prior to last season.
On paper, Merrifield is the perfect fit for a Cubs team that wants to improve offensively without spending a bunch of money to do it. But the Royals have maintained all along that they weren’t interested in moving one of the few marketable players they’ve got. If they were to consider a trade however, reports from the deadline had the opening bid at three major league-ready players.
That price has perhaps dropped in the time since, but the Tribune‘s Mark Gonzales mentioned a fit with two current Cubs. Specifically, the return was set at a combination of an infielder and an outfielder, which makes sense because that’s where Merrifield would play. But it wouldn’t be a pair of schmucks, so you have to think the conversation includes Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ, or something along those lines.
With Addison Russell expected by many to be non-tendered and the return of Daniel Descalso not guaranteed, any deal for Merrifield likely leaves the Cubs short-handed in the middle infield. David Bote should still be around to back up second, though, then you’ve got Zack Short on the 40-man roster to spell Javy Báez should something happen there.
Since we’ve already worn a track in the carpet of this particular rumor, we’ll leave off there. The big thing to consider here is whether Merrifield, who’ll turn 31 in January, still has enough left in the tank to push the Cubs forward in a meaningful way. More accurately, can he do so at a level commensurate with what it’ll cost the Cubs in player capital. The contract is a no-brainer, but the real key is whether Merrifield outweighs the production of Players X + Y over the next three seasons.
If the front office believes the answer to that is “Yes,” and we’ve seen from their previous trades that it might be, they could keep pushing. If not, this will just go down as Brian Roberts Part 2.