With rumors of the Cubs looking into a trade for second baseman Whit Merrifield, we break down the impact of adding the All-Star from Kansas City
With the status of Ben Zobrist uncertain along with a hopeful Addison Russell departure, It’s no question the Cubs are in need of a second baseman this off-season. One name that has been popping up on the team’s radar is Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals. If the Cubs could pull off a reasonable trade, the 30-year old would be a perfect fit for this group and could make a big impact.
To put things into perspective, the Cubs had Russell, Zobrist, Tony Kemp, Robel Garcia, and David Bote play second base last season. Those five players combined for a WAR of 2.3. Merrifield had a WAR of 4.0. The impact is shown on just that stat alone.
In addition of filling the need at the second base position, Merrifield would also add a huge component that the offense struggles with, and that is contact. The Cubs finished 2019 with a .253 team average (13th in baseball) and contact rate of 73.3%. Merrifield boasts a career batting average of .296 throughout his four MLB seasons, along with a contact rate of 82.7%.
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It’s also worth noting Merrifield led the majors in stolen bases in 2018 with 45. The Cubs as a whole stole 45 bases in 2019, good for 29th in baseball.
The Royals second baseman would help the Cubs upgrade in some major areas of weakness, which would be very impactful as this team looks to make big changes in terms of key metrics emphasis.
Merrifield seems like a no-brainer target. He fills the need at second base, fills the need for a contact-bat on offense and fills the need for a player who can steal bases. All of this in an All-Star caliber type player.
The only thing that makes it difficult is Chicago will need to trade for him. Merrifield is one of, if not the, core piece to a Kansas City Royals team in the midst of a rebuild. The price would seem very steep to pull him away from the Royals. Not only that, but his contract is very team friendly as he will begin the first year of a four-year, $16.25 million deal in 2020.
The question the Royals need to ask themselves is how close they feel they are to contention. With Merrifield at 30 years old, do they believe they are ready to contend in a year or two, and if so, keeping him around might make sense, as he would be a huge contributor at a cheap cost. If they’re still three to four years away, why not deal the second baseman and see what kind of haul you could bring back for the future of this team.
Put aside the need for pitching and an outfield dilemma, making a move for Merrifield fills many needs. With an infield of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Merrifield, the league would be hard-pressed to find a better group.