The Miami Marlins should think about trading for IF/OF Whit Merrifield.
According to MLB Network’s Joe Morosi, the Miami Marlins are going to be buyers, and are eyeing the bullpen of the Kansas City Royals. If that’s the case, Michael Hill and the Marlins front office are watching the right team, but the wrong players. Why? Well because If the Marlins really want to do something to improve their team, they need to be going after Royals star Whit Merrifield.
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There is some speculation Merrifield could be available for the right price, but there has also been Merrifield speculation for years. Just as there always is for talented players on low payroll teams. Too Pricey? Probably. But not necessarily.
In a normal year, such a move would be out of the question for a rebuilding team like Miami. And if a bidding war does unfold, if the price is too high, the Marlins would need to bow out.
Yet, as we all know, this is not a normal year. Revenues are down across the game. Moves are going to be made, this season and next, that are relative salary dumps- and for once it won’t just be teams like the Marlins participating. Venerable spenders like Boston and Chicago will be cash shy too. Indeed, Boston has already started selling. So obtaining that big roster upgrade at the trade deadline this year might not require the prospect haul it would have taken in years past. Just a willingness to spend.
Now, if Boston and Chicago are worried about money, surely Miami is, right?
The thing is, I think the Miami Marlins might actually enjoy an advantage here. Their 2020 payroll is bottom five already. Admittedly, so is Kansas City’s, who slots in just $4 million ahead of the Marlins according to Spotrac.
However, the Marlins rank dead last when it comes to 2021 payroll. Current commitments have the Fish spending $10 million less than the 29th ranked Athletics. As for the Royals, they are currently slated to spend twice what Miami is on payroll next season.
Twice what a team that looks to be significantly ahead of them in terms of rebuild schedule is spending. Not smart Royals. Conversely, it could be very smart for the Marlins.
Because a big factor in why Miami should consider a more aggressive move like a Whit Merrifield deal is a deadline “win” for the Miami Marlins looks very different from a win for most of the other contenders. Teams like the Astros, Braves and the Yankees don’t just need to make the playoffs, they need to advance deep in them. The Dodgers? Title or bust.
That’s just not the case for Miami. They don’t even necessarily have to make the playoffs to be viewed as a success, just so long as they have a winning season. They certainly don’t need to win whatever first-round matchup with Los Angeles.
After seventeen years, it will be nice just to be nominated for Marlins fans. The playoff chase, the entire season of relevant and meaningful baseball will be reward enough. Reward enough that fans will spend big when given the opportunity to do so again.
Why Merrifield specifically though?
Well, he’s a super-utility All-Star for one. He’s also not a one year rental for another- the Marlins could control him until 2023. Plus, he’s cheap- the Marlins are paying Wei-Yin Chen more to not play for them this season alone than they would potentially need to pay Merrifield over the length of his contract.
It goes without saying that Whit Merrifield would immediately become the Miami Marlins’ best hitter. But his position flexibility would afford the Marlins a lot of flexibility in slotting in their young prospects. The man can play four positions. Hopefully, Isan Diaz and all the rest of Miami’s prospects at first, second, and the outfield are all winners. Unfortunately, odds are at least one won’t be. Why not pounce on a couple of years of well above replacement production until the next prospect emerges?
One final note on why the cash strapped Marlins would be smart to spend now if the prospect asking price is reasonable. At some point before Opening Day 2021, they are going to be inking a new television contract. Famously regarded as one of the worst deals in professional sports, an exciting team that spent a season contending is going to look a lot more attractive than one that didn’t.
It’s a long shot. And if the Royals want a Sixto Sanchez or J.J. Bleday to get it done, then it shouldn’t get done. But the Marlins would be foolish not to call and ask