Dodgers should follow Padres, pursue Whit Merrifield at Winter Meetings

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 09: Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals warms up prior to the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 09: Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals warms up prior to the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

As the Winter Meetings in San Diego continue, the Padres are back in the news, this time for going after Whit Merrifield. The Dodgers should follow suit.

Merrifield will be 31 at the end of next month, and he’s become one of the premier players in the American League since his rookie season back in 2016. A season ago, Merrifield earned his first All-Star nod, finishing the 2019 campaign with 16 home runs and 20 steals while hitting for a .302 AVG. Merrifield smacked 40 doubles and 10 triples as well, helping him eclipse 300 total bases during a season in which he played in all 162 games for his Kansas City Royals.

Merrifield would provide the Dodgers with a real leadoff hitter that is capable of stealing bases and hitting for decent power, a combination that Joc Pederson and other leadoff hitters from the past three seasons have failed to achieve. Outside of his top-of-the-order potential, Merrifield is able to play all over the diamond. In 2019, he played games at all three outfield positions as well as at first and second base; he primarily plays up the middle though, at second base and in center field.

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With the overall package of durability (he’s averaged 155 games a year over his last three seasons), multi-positional utility, power, and speed, Merrifield could be the star the Dodgers need. Certainly, he still comes with questions though.

If the Dodgers acquired the current Royals face of the franchise, who hits free agency in 2023, what would happen to Gavin Lux, the team’s most likely candidate to start at second base in 2020?

For starters, Merrifield is very competent in the outfield and at first base, so he does not need to block Lux. Instead, the right-handed hitter Merrifield can be the everyday second baseman against lefties while shifting to the outfield when Lux comes in to face right-handed pitchers, at least early on in the season. Additionally, manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday that Lux could see time in the outfield. With Merrifield and Lux both spending time at second base and in the outfield, the Dodgers and Roberts would have even more lineup flexibility.

Another question that could surround Merrifield would be ‘What about adding Francisco Lindor or Anthony Rendon to the infield? And aren’t both of them better than Merrifield?’

Again, Merrifield is perfectly comfortable in the outfield, so adding a middle infielder or corner infielder would not mean that Merrifield would have nowhere to play. If the Dodgers added Merrifield, Lindor may not be necessary, unless the Dodgers dealt Corey Seager as well, but Lindor may not be on the market anyways, based on recent rumors from MLBTR. As for Rendon, he certainly has the better power numbers and profiles as more of a middle of the order bat, and he’s got the postseason experience that Merrifield lacks.

However, Merrifield does fit the Dodgers’ needs a little more strictly speaking, and he fits the utility-eligible mold. Merrifield is also far less expensive, which would allow the Dodgers to still sign Gerrit Cole, whose contract is likely to exceed $300 million.

The last question comes in terms of competition. If the Padres have been pursuing Merrifield, they certainly have a deeper farm system. Would the Dodgers be able to outbid the Padres on Merrifield?

That remains to be seen. The Padres and Dodgers both have plenty of top prospects that are likely to be untouchable when it comes to a Merrifield trade, so they may be more even than some would expect, though Merrifield’s price is certainly up in the air at this point.

Next. Dodgers are shifting their attention to Madison Bumgarner. dark

No matter how the front office does it, they’re under pressure from ownership and the fans to add a big-time player, and Merrifield would certainly fit that bill.