TORONTO -- The Blue Jays pulled off a buzzer-beater ahead of Tuesday’s Trade Deadline, acquiring second baseman and outfielder Whit Merrifield from the Royals.
Merrifield, now 33, has played all seven of his MLB seasons with the Royals after debuting at 27, developing into a two-time All-Star (2019, ’21). Now, Merrifield brings speed and defensive versatility to a Blue Jays club that was looking to round out their position player group for a postseason run.
Blue Jays get: UTIL Whit Merrifield
Royals get: 2B/OF Samad Taylor (Blue Jays' No. 16 prospect), RHP Max Castillo
Over 95 games this season, Merrifield has hit .240 with six home runs and a .643 OPS, numbers that are below what we’ve come to expect from him. In Kansas City’s recent trip to Toronto from July 14-17, Merrifield was notably one of 10 players who could not travel to Canada due to being unvaccinated.
At the time, Merrifield said it was something he would think about getting in the future because of his desire to play in the postseason, though it'll certainly be more of an urgent priority now that he'll be playing in Toronto.
"Right or wrong, I didn't do it on a whim,” Merrifield said. “It's been a long thought process. Because I understand what Canada has in place right now. That's the only reason that I would think about getting it at this point, is to go to Canada. That might change down the road. Something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that vaccines are safe, effective and have greatly reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed children and adults.
On the field, Merrifield can fit the Blue Jays’ lineups and defensive configurations in a variety of ways, which is at the core of the attraction.
"I think he'll fit in great," interim manager John Schneider said. "He's a good player who can do a lot of different things that complements our roster that's already really good. The athleticism, the versatility. We've seen him play. He's a gamer. So we're excited to have someone who gives you a little bit more insurance."
George Springer continues to battle a right elbow issue that had him out of the lineup again Tuesday and is growing more worrying, so Merrifield’s first assignment could come as outfield depth as the club rotates in Raimel Tapia, who’s enjoyed a strong run of late. Merrifield has primarily played second base over the past two seasons, and while that position is occupied by 2022 All-Star Santiago Espinal, there will always be opportunities when Espinal needs to slide to shortstop or third base for a day.
Merrifield’s speed might be the most interesting factor in all of this, though.
With two seasons of 40-plus steals under his belt, including 2021, Merrifield offers the Blue Jays a true threat on the bases. This is a roster that’s become significantly more athletic from top to bottom, but this group hadn’t featured a runner you’d confidently roll out in the bottom of the ninth to run in a big spot. That could now be Merrifield, and on days he’s starting, he’ll fit the aggressive new mentality of this team under Schneider very well.
Going the other way is Taylor, a versatile and speedy young player who broke out in 2021 and has hit .258 with a .763 OPS over 70 games in Triple-A this season. Castillo, also 23, posted a 3.05 ERA over 20 2/3 innings in his debut season in the Majors and left a great impression, but his swingman role will now be taken over by Mitch White, acquired in another Deadline deal from the Dodgers.