KANSAS CITY -- A year ago, rumors persisted that the Royals might trade super-utility man Whit Merrifield.Merrifield was relatively young, versatile position-wise, speedy, and with good makeup. And he was making basically the league minimum. Perfect trade bait.But those rumors subsided this past July when general manager Dayton Moore made
KANSAS CITY -- A year ago, rumors persisted that the Royals might trade super-utility man Whit Merrifield.
Merrifield was relatively young, versatile position-wise, speedy, and with good makeup. And he was making basically the league minimum. Perfect trade bait.
But those rumors subsided this past July when general manager Dayton Moore made it clear that the Royals were better off in the future with Merrifield on the team.
The Royals and Moore backed up that claim on Monday, when they officially announced that Merrifield had been signed to a four-year deal. Terms were not disclosed, but sources indicated the deal was worth a guaranteed $16.25 million: $1 million in 2019, $5 million in '20, $6.75 million in '21 and $2.75 million in '22, with a club option ($750,000 buyout) in '23 of $10.5 million.
There was not a no-trade clause in the deal.
"He represents everything that we're about," Moore said at a news conference Monday at Kauffman Stadium. "There are very few players that we've been a part of as a leadership team that we've admired more than Whit Merrifield, for everything he's about. He's a winner and a championship-type player, and we're very honored that he will be a part of our future."
Merrifield, 30, and the Royals had been discussing a long-term contract since late last season. Merrifield approached Kansas City at season's end, and Moore and the Royals were receptive to discussions. Moore then met with Merrifield's agent, Joe Gaza, at the Winter Meetings for about two hours. Moore's assistants, Jin Wong and Scott Sharp, played big roles in the negotiations as well.
"This is something we've been trying for a while," Merrifield said. "I love Kansas City and the community. This is just a moment for me to thank Dayton and [Royals owner] Mr. [David] Glass. It will change me and my family for the rest of our lives, but it doesn't change anything for me on the field. I didn't start in this game to be a millionaire. I play because I love playing and I want to win championships."
Merrifield is coming off a sensational season, in which he led the Major Leagues in hits (192) and stolen bases (45).
"There was statistical analysis with our people, and we believed Whit would continue to perform at a high level [through this contract]," Moore said. "And more importantly, there's a trust. If you know Whit the way we know him, he has an edge to him that he's never satisfied. I heard an interview this winter discussing Pete Rose, in that when he got three hits, he wanted four, and when he got four hits, he wanted five. I immediately thought of Whit.
"That's how Whit plays. He's everything you want in a winning baseball player … we believe in the player. If you believe in the player, you want to do everything to keep him here."
The deal was especially appealing to Merrifield, who is in his final season before arbitration. The contract wipes out the potential anxiety of three years of arbitration.
"Yeah, sure, guaranteed money is appealing," Merrifield said. "It's appealing for both sides. It's beneficial for me, but it's also helpful for Kansas City in terms of financial flexibility. It's good for both sides.
"Going through the arbitration process, it's about putting up numbers, and it's never been a good recipe for me. It wasn't that way in the Minors for me either. Being able to do this and not worry about the numbers, it's helpful."
Moore considers the deal a win-win for everyone.
"There were conversations that we had quite often, truthfully, with Whit and Joe," Moore said. "Whit and I very candidly spoke about this at the end of last season about who he is, what he represents to the Royals, the community. We all know that fans adore him and admire how he plays. He connects very well with the fans, and to give him peace of mind to play the game he loves was a big factor. Whit asked if we would consider it and we both agreed that we would move forward."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.