While the Philadelphia Phillies biggest need appears to be starting pitching, one unnamed American League scout told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com that in addition to starting pitching, “They need some relievers, because none of them can seem to stay healthy. They [also] need an outfielder.” Well, in addition to being connected to virtually every starting pitcher on the market, the Phillies reportedly checked in on one of the league’s more versatile position players that could fill the need for outfield help.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Phillies, along with the division-rival Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs, have shown interest in Kansas City Royals super-utility star Whit Merrifield. However, Morosi says that the Royals don’t plan to trade Merrifield anywhere before the July 31 trade deadline.
The Phillies interest in Merrifield is hardly surprising. Beyond the fact that the Phillies checked in on the availability of Merrifield last July, the Phillies clearly value the super-utility role. Scott Kingery currently fills that role, but if the plan is for him to eventually be the everyday second baseman, they could do that and still have another experienced piece ready to slide into the super-utility role in Merrifield. Merrifield, like Kingery, is a natural second baseman, but he’s capable of playing all three outfield positions (and has limited experience at third base) as well.
Merrifield, 30, is slashing .306/.357/.495 with 12 home runs, 51 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a 2.7 fWAR in 2019. A season ago, Merrifield posted a 5.2 fWAR, which was tied with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman for the 15th best mark among all qualified position players.
Beyond how productive Merrifield is as a player, he has one of the more team-friendly contracts in baseball. Merrifield is in year one of a four-year/$16.25 million deal that also includes a $6.5 million club option for 2023, his age-34 season. Of course, that contract incentivizes the Royals to keep Merrifield unless they are blown away by a trade offer.
Last week, MLB.com‘s Jeffrey Flanagan reported that the Phillies scouted Royals lefty reliever Jake Diekman earlier this month. Diekman, who spent parts of four seasons with the Phillies, is likely to be traded per Morosi, with the Phillies “among teams with varying levels of interest.”
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