Whit Merrifield has started games this year at five defensive positions, hits for power from the leadoff spot and ranks among the top four Major Leaguers in stolen bases over the past three seasons.
In short, Merrifield is the ideal Trade Deadline acquisition … in every way but one.
The Royals aren’t going to trade him.
Despite interest from multiple contenders -- including the Cubs, Braves and Phillies -- the Royals are informing clubs that they will keep Merrifield beyond next week’s Trade Deadline, one source told MLB.com Thursday.
Merrifield’s initial price tag was set extraordinarily high. The Royals would’ve had to receive the type of Major League talent that contenders wouldn’t give up during the middle of the season.
The Royals have no contractual incentive to move Merrifield, who is under team control through 2023, and the team’s front office values him highly as an organizational tone-setter, on and off the field.
One source said Kansas City is, however, increasingly likely to trade left-handed reliever Jake Diekman, who is earning an affordable $2.25 million salary this year on a contract that includes a mutual option for 2020.
Diekman, who has postseason experience with the Rangers, does not have gaudy full-season numbers in 2019: He is 0-6 with a 4.75 ERA in 48 outings. However, he’s peaking at the right time. Diekman has struck out 10 batters while allowing one run over his last 5 1/3 innings.
Diekman’s 13.61 strikeouts per nine innings rank fourth among all Major League left-handers to appear in at least 30 games this year, trailing only Josh Hader, Brad Hand and Felipe Vazquez.
The Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Nationals and Braves are among the teams with varying levels of interest in Diekman, sources say. It will work to the Royals’ benefit that relatively few high-impact left-handed relievers are available at this year’s Deadline, especially if the Giants decide to keep Will Smith and Tony Watson.
Arizona’s Andrew Chafin and Cincinnati’s Amir Garrett are among the other left-handed possibilities on the trade market, although it’s not certain that either will be moved.
Diekman could be the only Major League player traded by the Royals in the coming week. The sizable contracts of pitchers Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy make them difficult to move, even though some contenders have expressed interest in them.
Morton staying home
While the Rays are only one game back of the second American League Wild Card, they entered Thursday with a 10-game deficit in the AL East -- a range in which moderate selling could have appeal.
And the Rays just happen to have an AL Cy Young Award candidate, on an affordable contract, without a no-trade clause.
But no, sources say the Rays aren’t going to trade Charlie Morton.
The team views Morton, 35, as integral to its 2020 club and likely '21, for which his contract includes a vesting option. While Morton’s deal lacks trade protection, the organization also wants to respect Morton’s wishes to pitch near his home in Bradenton, Fla.
Morton also is in the midst of a historic season, with an ERA+ of 173. Since 1950, only three other starters, 35 or older, have finished with that mark over a full season, according to Baseball-Reference.com: Randy Johnson (five times), Hoyt Wilhelm (three times) and Roger Clemens (two times).
Stroman’s price tag
Marcus Stroman is extraordinarily valuable to AL contenders, because of his track record in the AL East and dominance of right-handed batters. The Yankees and Astros rely heavily on right-handed power hitters, and Stroman has held righties to a .583 OPS this season.
In other words, if the Astros want to defeat the Yankees in the postseason, Stroman would be an ideal acquisition -- and vice versa.
So, what could a deal look like? The Blue Jays have interest in Kyle Tucker, Houston’s top outfield prospect, but it’s not clear if they’d accept Tucker alone as a sufficient return for Stroman.