Whit Merrifield, Royals Have Reportedly Agreed to 4-Year Extension

It’s not exactly Cubs news, at least not directly, but MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi is reporting that second baseman Whit Merrifield is has agreed to an extension with the Royals. The deal is for $16.25 million with another $2 million in performance bonuses over the next four seasons. That’s notable because it matches Merrifield’s arbitration-eligible seasons without pushing beyond, which would normally be the case with an extension.

Even though Royals GM Dayton Moore had more or less ruled out a Merrifield trade back in November, speculation continued. Much of that came from Cubs fans who wanted to see the 30-year-old patrolling the middle infield in Chicago, though nothing ever surfaced about serious talks. And now that an extension is in place, it seems the Royals are indeed planning to “slow cook the next championship core.”

Then again, it’s possible this extension actually makes it more likely Merrifield is traded. He’s older than most other players at his same level of contractual status, but he’s produced like crazy over the past three seasons and would have been in line for big raises through arbitration. Between those future salary unknowns and his his relatively advanced age, Merrifield’s trade value might not be too easy to peg. That changes with an extension that clearly defines everything through his age-34 season.

And at less than $5 million annually, that value is pretty darn solid. Either way, this probably doesn’t alter the (un)likelihood that Merrifield ends up in Chicago. Which I guess means this was all just a waste of time. Unless it wasn’t. But I have cracked into this year’s Hopslam release and have finally gotten around to starting The Sopranos, so my judgement is perhaps not at its peak.

Update: MLB.com’s Royals beat writer Jeffrey Flanagan reports that the extension likely has an option for a fifth year.

Update #2: The fifth-year option on the extension could push the total value to $30 million, according to Jon Heyman. Using a little quick math, that puts the final year at something like $11.75 million, or nearly three times the AAV of the base deal. Even so, it’s could still be an absolute steal for a guy who’ll be in his age-34 season at that point.

Update #3: According to Flanagan (Twitter link), the deal is actually for $1 million in 2019, $5 million in 2020, $6.75 million in 2021, and $2.75 in 2022, with a $10.5 million club option for 2023 that carries a $750,000 buyout. Merrifield also has $2 million in escalators for ’21 and ’22 that are based on plate appearances and awards (All-Star selection, Gold Glove. So if my math is right, that’s a max of $28 million, which seems really light.

And the way it drops off in the final year with only a $750K buyout, wow. If Merrifield doesn’t make good on the escalators and the Royals don’t pick up the option, he’s back to that $16.25 million figure initially mentioned.

Update #4: Jon Heyman tweets additional details of the extension, which actually includes another $1.6 million in performance bonuses during the base years. There’s also another $1 million in salary escalators and $400K in bonuses during the option year, which brings the total potential value to $31 million. I think Heyman is double-counting the buyout, which disappears if the Royals pick up the option, but whatever.

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