Several outlets have reported the Brewers’ interest in another soon-to-be free agent -- Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. But it looks like the organization’s longtime fascination with Royals infielder Whit Merrifield is also continuing. The problem is it may take a significant package of prospects to land him -- even bigger than the offer they made for Machado.
The interest in Merrifield goes back to at least this past offseason, when rumors started popping up last winter. While Merrifield is a late-bloomer -- he didn’t debut until he was 27 and broke out last year at the age of 28 -- the fact he’s hitting .305/.375/.429 with 30 doubles and 17 steals on the league minimum, isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2020 and won’t be a free agent until after 2022 means the Royals are asking for a king’s ransom for him.
The Athletic tells us just how much they’re asking for:
”A lot,” one rival executive said. “Under control and cheap for multiple years. Three higher-end prospects, at least.”
”Top 10-15 prospect plus 1-2 younger, upside players,” another baseball executive said. “I think it takes an intriguing headliner.”
That’s not quite what the Brewers gave up to acquire Christian Yelich, but it’s not far off from that, either.
The assumption is that Hiura would still be off-limits in such a deal (in a fun coincidence, Baseball Prospectus recently said Merrifield’s performance is what could end up being Hiura’s floor in the majors), that would likely mean putting Corbin Burnes or Freddy Peralta into play, along with a couple of prospects in danger of being left off the 40-man this winter -- Luis Ortiz, Cody Ponce, Trey Supak, Jake Gatewood, Kodi Medeiros, Troy Stokes Jr., Tyrone Taylor.
It makes sense that the Royals, who are even more budget-conscious than the Brewers, would want a massive return for a player with four years of team control left that’s putting up borderline All-Star numbers. The question is how much the Brewers would be willing to give up for a guy who’s still relatively unproven and could already be playing at his peak.
It’s not a perfect comparison, but if the Brewers are worried Merrifield could be another Casey McGehee -- two very good years before falling off -- it might be very difficult for the two sides to agree on what’s a reasonable return.