At the outset of the 2018 season, the Philadelphia Phillies thought rookie Scott Kingery – not able to play his natural position of second base regularly because of the presence of Cesar Hernandez – would provide them with a super-utility star. Kingery did have four hits in Friday’s 17-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he’s largely been ineffective in his rookie season. Despite some growing pains in the field, Kingery has graded out fairly well in the field. But as a hitter, he’s slashing just .235/.283/.343 with a -8.9 offensive WAR, the 11th-worst mark in baseball.
General manager Matt Klentak rewarded Kingery with a six-year extension (with three additional option years) before he ever played a game in the majors. He’s still only 24, so there’s probably little doubt in the organization that Kingery still has an extremely high upside. But a combination of underperformances and injuries has kept him from serving in the super-utility role in 2018. And the Phillies apparently still long to have someone fill that void.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Phillies have interest in Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals:
One name the Philadelphia front office is pursuing instead: Royals super-utility man Whit Merrifield.
Sources say the Phillies have shown interest in Merrifield, a potential All-Star who probably has the most trade value of any player on the Royals’ active roster.
Merrifield, 29, is currently slashing .290/.359/.414 with a 2.1 fWAR. Merrifield’s natural position is second base, a spot in which the Phillies may have as much depth as anyone, so they aren’t interested in him for his ability to play that position currently. With that said, he does have experience playing both third base and right field, two positions the Phillies could stand to upgrade at before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. It is worth pointing out, however, that his defensive metrics at both of those positions haven’t been good.
Not only can Merrifield not become a free-agent until after 2022, but he won’t even become eligible for arbitration until 2020. Second base is currently blocked, but Hernandez can become a free-agent after 2020. He could be traded in the interim. Kingery is a natural second baseman, but the Phillies also seem to like him at shortstop. Even if Merrifield isn’t a great fielder at any one position, the fact that he can occupy spots all over the field could entice the Phillies.
In addition to Merrifield, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia did report last week that the Phillies and Royals have had fairly substantive conversations on two-time All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas. Robert Murray, writing for FRS Baseball, noted earlier in June that scouts around the league were “buzzing” about the potential fit between the Phillies and Moustakas, who can become a free-agent at the conclusion of the season.