Latest On Royals’ Trade Candidates

The Royals are one of the relatively few teams who look like clear-cut sellers heading into the trade deadline, and there has already been buzz about several of their veteran players.  Two new teams have joined the mix, as the New York Post’s Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers have shown some interest in Whit Merrifield, while the Brewers are among the teams considering Andrew Benintendi.

Such clubs as the Padres and Mets have already been linked to Benintendi in trade rumors, though his non-vaccinated status has apparently removed such suitors as the Blue Jays and Yankees from his market — Benintendi wouldn’t be able to play in Canada altogether, while the Yankees wouldn’t want Benintendi unavailable for remaining regular-season games or potential postseason games in Toronto.

That is less of an obstacle for NL teams like the Brewers, since if Milwaukee eventually had to worry about Benintendi’s status for a potential World Series matchup against the Jays, that would count as a nice problem to have for a team battling for the NL Central lead.  The Brew Crew heads into the All-Star break with a narrow half-game lead over the Cardinals, but the Brewers are only 18-24 since the start of June.

An inconsistent offense has plagued Milwaukee, and Benintendi’s strong bat (127 wRC+) would certainly help in that regard.  A regular center fielder would probably be a better fit considering that Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen are already splitting left field duty, but Benintendi could get the bulk of time in left, while Yelich and McCutchen are rested, used at DH, or McCutchen could also play right field.

Merrifield has long been mentioned as a trade chip, yet while the Royals have resisted overtures in the past, they are reportedly now more open to considering a deal.  Of course, Merrfield’s trade value has also tumbled, as the 33-year-old is in the midst of the worst of his seven MLB seasons, hitting .240/.292/.343 over his first 373 plate appearances.

With Los Angeles, Merrifield likely wouldn’t be asked to adopt an everyday role, but rather be toggled around the diamond in a utility role.  Since Chris Taylor is on the injured list, Merrifield would more or less take Taylor’s role as an option at second base and all three outfield positions.  The Dodgers could also primarily use Merrifield against only left-handed pitching, though his splits against all pitchers have been underwhelming over the last two seasons.

Merrifield is also controlled through at least the 2023 season, as his contract (which was reworked back in April) calls for a $6.75MM salary next year, as he has already hit his health-based escalator clause.  He is also owed roughly $2.7MM in salary for 2022, and there is a $500K buyout of an $18MM mutual option for 2024.  Even though payroll or luxury-tax concerns aren’t a big obstacle for the Dodgers, it is possible that the Royals might be willing to kick in some money to cover Merrifield’s contract, as a reflection of his struggles this year.

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