With literally no time to spare before the 2022 MLB trade deadline was reached, the Kansas City Royals have made another move that will shake up the present and future outlooks of the club. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield is being traded. Jon Heyman of the New York Post adds that the veteran is headed to the Toronto Blue Jays. Feinsand adds that 2B Samad Taylor and pitcher Max Castillo are coming back to Kansas City.
Merrifield, a seventh-year man who turned 33 in January, hasn't quite been himself this season. He got off to a dreadful start to the year, lowering his season-long numbers that are just now beginning to creep back up. The utility man hit just .141 in the month of April, striking out 11 times and logging 11 hits in 78 at-bats. He heated up in the months following that, however, and enjoyed enough recent success to spark a trade with Toronto.
In 95 games this season, Merrifield is slashing .240/.290/.352 with six home runs, 42 RBIs, and 15 stolen bases with a 80 wRC+. In 2020, he slashed .282/.325/.440 with a 106 wRC+ and in all 162 games last season, he slashed .277/.317/.395 with a 91 wRC+ and 10 home runs. He's spent time at multiple positions for the Royals over the years but has primarily been played at second base and in right field as Kansas City's do-it-all chess piece. Jeff Passan of ESPN recently singled out Merrifield as one of the club's biggest trade assets, and I said the following regarding Merrifield's case to be moved:
Merrifield is another player who many others have also considered likely to be traded. Following his comments after being placed on the restricted list earlier this month and maintaining such a terrific level of play in July, it simply makes sense for the club to move off its 33-year-old jack-of-all-trades. Seeing someone like Passan putting it as clearly as "expected to be moved," though, brings a new reality to the situation.
What exactly are the Royals getting back for Merrifield?
At the time of the trade, Taylor was listed by MLB Pipeline as the Blue Jays' No. 16 prospect. In 70 games at the Triple-A level this season, the infielder/outfielder is slashing .258/.337/.426 with nine home runs, 45 RBIs and a 102 wRC+. He's also posting walk and strikeout rates of 10% and 22.1%, respectively. Taylor's calling cards are his speed and defense, although his production at the plate in recent seasons as a member of both Toronto and Cleveland's farm systems makes the 24-year-old an intriguing prospect.
Castillo, 23, is a big 6-foot-2, 280-pound right-handed pitcher who made his big-league debut with the Blue Jays in June of this year. In nine appearances with the team (two starts), he's tossed 202/3 innings of nine-run ball (seven earned) and has a 3.05 ERA in those frames. He's also allowed four home runs and 15 total hits while striking out 20 and walking just five during that span. In just over 56 combined innings with Toronto's minor league affiliates this year, Castillo boasts a 1.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts. He profiles primarily as a relief pitcher but boasts a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curveball and even a sinker that he'll operate with, so perhaps he could project as a starter in Kansas City.