Lastly Traded, Whit Merrifield Brings Versatility to Blue Jays

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Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports activities

For as lengthy I’ve been writing about baseball, Whit Merrifield has by no means failed to look on an inventory of potential commerce targets. He’s by no means been dealt, although, because the Royals most popular to carry onto their speedy, contact-orientated infielder — that’s, till now. Previous the height of his powers, Merrifield is lastly headed elsewhere — Toronto, to be actual, which acquired him for prospects Samad Taylor and Max Castillo.

The Blue Jays didn’t want to commerce for Merrifield, although in hindsight, he’s a reasonably good match. Santiago Espinal has dealt with second base for many of this season, however a 95 wRC+ isn’t marvelous, and he’s had a crummy July on high of that. Likelihood is the Jays will alternate between Espinal and Merrifield there, and if the previous continues to development downward, they now have a transparent Plan B. As well as, the right-handed Merrifield can also be able to dealing with a nook outfield spot on a staff whose backup outfielders (Cavan Biggio, Raimel Tapia, and Bradley Zimmer) are all lefties. Versatility is nice! Toronto now has extra of it than earlier than.

It’s somewhat bizarre to think about Merrifield in a depth position, however proper now, his bat simply doesn’t have sufficient thump; via 95 video games this season, he’s hitting a career-worst .240/.290/.352 (80 wRC+). Granted, that’s partially resulting from a gradual begin, so possibly he can bounce again. The projections assume it’s attainable, however the warning indicators persist: He’s hitting fewer line drives than ever, with weak grounders and fly balls taking their place, although his plate self-discipline remains to be intact.

If the return for a reputation like Merrifield seems mild, take into account the truth that not solely is he 33 years previous but in addition within the midst of an offensive slide relationship all the best way again to 2019. From a commerce worth perspective, the one facet that labored within the Royals’ favor is his contract, which retains him on the Blue Jays for a further yr. It’s additionally grime low cost, even for a diminished model of Merrifield. Consequently, the Royals are amassing not only one, however two prospects with legit intrigue. These aren’t simply heat our bodies used to bundle trades, in different phrases.

The primary is Taylor, a statline scout darling. He had himself a dashing breakout in Double-A final season, with 16 bombs, 30 stolen bases, and a .294/.385/.503 slash line, however take warning. The underlying energy numbers don’t assist a real surge, and his swing choices are troublesome; look no additional than the 29.4% strikeout charge that looms over his scintillating triple slash. Nonetheless, the pace is actual, and Taylor can deal with 5 positions. In tandem together with his first rate really feel for hitting, his instruments are sufficient to ensure him a spot on an enormous league roster — assume a 1 WAR position participant.

The second is Castillo, who I like so much upon nearer examination. He has a brief, snappy arm motion that considerations me a bit, nevertheless it doubtless provides a very good quantity of deception to his repertoire. For instance, right here’s a fastball he threw in opposition to Javier Báez earlier this season:

Going in opposition to the grain, Castillo’s heater includes a heavy quantity of tail, which you’ll see on full show. That received’t let him miss too many bats, however it would let him induce sufficient weak contact to compensate. It passes the attention check, has labored for him to this point within the majors, and grades pretty nicely on stuff fashions. Moreover the fastball, he depends on a upper-80s changeup that he instructions exceptionally nicely; it’s most likely his finest pitch general. A longtime fastball-changeup tandem means Castillo is without doubt one of the safer pitching prospects round — he’s already a viable reliever — however the Royals would want to supervise the event of his slider in the event that they plan on him beginning video games.

With the participant summaries full, there’s an elephant within the room I want I didn’t want to handle however is respiration down my neck, so right here goes. Is Merrifield legally allowed to enter the nation of Canada? It’s absurd that this query must be requested, however as we all know all too nicely, a latest three-game sequence between the Blue Jays and Royals revealed that he had not been vaccinated for COVID-19, which is required for entry into Canada. Toronto has given a Merrfield a shot, sure, however can it give him the shot?

As of this writing, there’s been no affirmation of Merrifield’s vaccination standing. In an interview, Jays GM Ross Atkins declined to comment additional on the matter, saying he would let Merrifield focus on it together with his household. Primarily based on the truth that he circumvented a easy sure/no query, it looks as if the Blue Jays acquired Merrifield earlier than confirming whether or not or not he would conform to a vaccine. In that case, it’s a transfer that reeks of irresponsibility. I’m no GM, however I’d need my deadline acquisition to look in entrance of the house crowd and never skip half the remaining video games. It’s not as if the prospect of a U.S.-only Merrifield was accounted for within the acquisition price, both. Parting with two 40 FV prospects for a utility bat, albeit a longtime one with bounce-back potential, shouldn’t be a cut price.

For what it’s value, when Merrifield did miss out on that earlier journey to Toronto, he told reporters that “the one purpose that I might take into consideration getting [the vaccine] at this level is to go to Canada…. One thing occurs and I occur to get to a staff that has an opportunity to play in Canada within the postseason, possibly that modifications.” These feedback didn’t endear him to Royals followers (or his own general manager), nevertheless it does sound like somebody who would hopefully get his photographs now that the state of affairs has shifted.

There are a couple of different considerations concerning Merrifield, together with an alarming dip in his defensive metrics, however the precedence right here is getting him into Canada. Hopefully the Blue Jays have a plan; in any other case, I’d choose not to consider the following logistical nightmare. As for the Royals, they’ve finally traded Merrifield. It’s a couple of years late, positive, however as they are saying, higher late than by no means.




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