For literal years, we’ve all wondered what these post-2016 Chicago Cubs teams might look like with a legitimate replacement for Dexter Fowler atop the order, setting the table for guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. And, for years, Kansas City Royals utilityman Whit Merrifield has been on the top of many a list when it comes to dream trade targets.
So, naturally, as the Cubs set to embark on a sell-off, the Royals are reportedly “more open” to moving off Merrifield than in years past. As Jed Hoyer seeks to dismantle the Chicago core that ended a 108-year World Series drought, one can’t help but wonder what might have been had A) Kansas City been willing to trade Merrifield in recent years and B) the Cubs been willing to do what it takes to acquire the now-32-year-old.
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From 2017 to 2019, Merrifield averaged 33 stolen bases and a .298/.348/.454 slash line for the Royals. This year, he leads MLB with 25 steals – although his offensive production has waned a bit from his peak. Given his affordability, though, this guy still has a ton of value: he’s making just $6.75 million this season, $2.75 million (with a potential $2 million bonus) in 2022 and a $10.5 million team option in 2023.
So if you wanted to go out and get Merrifield to set the table for your club and be a stopgap at multiple positions, financially speaking, you’re looking at somewhere between $4 and $7 million for the rest of 2021 and all of 2022.
Unfortunately for Chicago, adding a legs-first presence heading into his mid-30s doesn’t make a ton of sense. That ship has sailed for the Cubs. If you added Merrifield three years ago, then you had something. Now, it would be a peak Jim Hendry era move, adding a veteran for what he once was – not what he’s likely to be moving forward.
Chicago Cubs can learn from their lack of adding Whit Merrifield in recent years
Merrifield would have fixed a lot of problems for the Cubs in recent years. But it’s in the past and you can’t turn back time. You can, however, learn from not fixing the leadoff spot year after year and make sure that it’s not an issue moving forward.
Nobody really knows what next year’s iteration of the Chicago Cubs will look like or who will be on the roster. But after watching Joe Maddon try guy after guy atop the order, largely to disastrous results, and David Ross follow suit, this cannot be a problem moving forward.
As Jed Hoyer reshapes the organization to his liking, both in the next week or so, and moving forward, Whit Merrifield should remain in the back of his mind because he could have made a huge difference for this team when the championship window was still open – and the front office can’t repeat the same mistake again.