As much as it would kill Kyle Reis (you should follow him on Twitter) to have a guy named Whit on the team, today I am going to make a case for the Cardinals trading for Danny Duffy and Whit Merrifield and trying to figure out what it might take.
If the Cardinals are to be buyers in the NL Central at this year's deadline or before, the Cardinals could look across the state at Kansas City to make a splash. The Kansas City Royals have spent the entirety of 2019 playing as well as the Cardinals played from May 2nd through May 31st. That's ... ummmmm ... not #good.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Kansas City Royals have put much of their current roster on the trade block, including Merrifield, who they signed to a sweet deal this offseason, and Duffy. Merrifield has mostly been a 2B in his career thus far, but also has played plenty of RF and CF the last couple of years (while having a handful of starts also in LF and at 3B and 1B).
Merrifield has been very good defensively at second base and in centerfield and very good defensively in the small sample of LF time he's played according to the advanced metrics. That sounds like a player that could be used in a variety of ways - something this manager and general manager seem to enjoy having on the club (see Yairo Munoz, Jedd Gyorko, Drew Robinson, etc.).
Not only that, but Merrifield has the type of bat that I believe Shildt wants in his lineup, and with John Mozeliak above him on the chain the past has shown what the manager wants the manager typically gets (see also: reasons Tyler O'Neill is in the minors instead of mashing HR at the MLB level). Merrifield makes a lot of contact. He swings often. Merrifield walks around 7% of the time and strikes out around 16-17% of the time. In the age of three-true outcomes, the fact that Merrifield does these two things less than 1/4 of the time shows that he is very much a Shildt-type hitter (in my mind). Merrifield also led the American League in steals in 2017 and 2018 and currently leads the AL in triples in 2019. The dude has some speed. His 28.4 ft/sec foot speed in 2019 would place him 2nd fastest on the Cardinals this year (not including Tyler O'Neill and Lane Thomas). He was in the top 7% of the league the last 3 years prior to 2019, but is not running as fast as he did those last three years - and he's already 30.
Merrifield has 4 years remaining left on his deal as well (including this season) plus a 5th year option in 2023. Whit has a 33% hard hit rate this year, according to Baseball Savant. He's been approximately 20-25% better with the bat than the average player, according to both OPS+ and wRC+ over the past couple of seasons and in 2019.
Danny Duffy is a 30 year old LHP who has been a great pen arm, a great rotation arm, an injury plagued youngster, and sprinkled in there in the middle a middling version of all of those. He has never bested the 180 innings mark in a season, but has boasted K/9 over 8% fairly frequently and even struck out over 1/4 of the batters he faced in 2016. He is primarily a 4-seam / slider pitcher who also has a curve, sinker, and change. His 4-seam and sinker velocities have really tanked over the last few years. I would not give nearly what I would have prior to 2018 in order to get him. He's damaged goods and this would have to be considered when looking at the package to get these two. Duffy is signed through the 2021 season.
Danny Duffy would likely take Genesis Cabrera's spot in the rotation or take a spot in the bullpen in the John Gant multiple inning potential role. Whit Merrifield would likely not have a Munoz/Robinson/Gyorko role. He'd be more of a Ben Zobrist on Tampa or Kansas City or Chicago type - likely getting a lot more playing time, more of a Carpenter role of last season where he'd lead off and then play a variety of positions in the field. That would make sense with his great speed and his .351 OBP over his past 1,310 PA.
Last year, I looked at what players were moved around the trade deadline and approximately what I believe the Cardinals would have had to give up to get them (based on the prospects sent to the selling team. Using that list, I would argue that the trade last year for the Cincinnati Reds selling Adam Duvall was similar to selling Merrifield:
Now, I believe Merrifield is a better player than Duvall. Duvall is one-dimensional with his power, while Merrifield is a multi-dimensional player. It would take a bit more to get him. You would have to step up the prospect game a bit over a Mendoza or McKinney and probably get younger on the other pitcher/player (or both) in the deal.
As for Duffy, here are ones I feel are similar (although none are even as close as the Duvall one to Merrifield, unfortunately:
So let's break this down. Andriese was traded for a position player prospect and a good-not-great starting pitching prospect...but we'd have to give a bit more because Andriese was a reliever at the time of the trade and Duffy's a starter. In the first deal referenced, Eovaldi was having an incredibly good start to the year, but was a rental...that balances out a bit, but Duffy would have to come for a lot more than one good-to-great pitching prospect.
One other thing to note is that the Royals traded Kelvin Herrera, Jon Jay, and Mike Moustakas last year. Herrera is a reliever only and a rental at that. Jay was a rental as well. Moustakas was also a rental last year. So, they traded three guys that I would argue have a combined value of a Merrifield/Duffy swap, but only 1/2 the seasons of control. Let's see what they got in return for those 3 guys and figure we'd have to add on to that just a little.
(Remember, we're already starting at needing more than a non-star position player prospect and a good-not-great pitching prospect for the Duffy portion of it + a 3rd tier pitching prospect, a potentially elite reliever-only prospect, and a non-star position player prospect for Merrifield.)
In Return for Herrera/Jay/Moustakas:
Potentially elite defensive OF prospect who could struggle to hit,
Contact-hitting 3B prospect who could shift to first,
2 really young, wild card type, pitching prospects,
A LOOGY-type pitching prospect,
Another lefty reliever with the potential to be a full inning guy, not a LOOGY, and
A good-not-great outfield prospect
Those 7 guys equate to something along the lines of Jose Adolis Garcia, Jonatan Machado, Max Schrock, Jacob Patterson, Patrick Dayton, Leonardo Taveras, and Nelson Prada.
My guess is that the Royals would want quality over quantity at this point. Instead of 7 guys like this or 5 mostly mediocre guys like in the above group.
They'd be looking for probably 4-5 guys and probably something like this:
An outfield prospect, an infield prospect, and two pitching prospects. The levels of potential on these players probably needs to be two guys who are good-not-great, one more guy who is above average-not-good, and a complete wild card with one tool.
My first offer to them, within this context is:
OF Adolis Garcia (clears a 40-man spot)
3B Evan Mendoza
LHP Evan Kruczynski
RHP Alvaro Seijas
(If they need it after the initial offer, I throw in another wild card with a plus tool like RHP Francisco Justo or Diego Cordero)
*note - The Cardinals would have to drop someone or (more likely) put Mike Mayers on the 60-day DL to keep the 40-man roster at 40 and not over.
Talking to a Royals fan friend of mine, his first response to "what do you want for Duffy and Merrifield?" was "I would want a legit AA CF prospect, a high A power 1B, and a struggling young SP prospect we can fix or turn into a power reliever. Or, if there's a legit pitching prospect, swap him in there somewhere."
After talking a bit, he stuck with: "I'd go CF and 1B/3B, one above average, one good-to-very good, and a throw-in arm with some potential."
Looking at it from that lens, the Cardinals would be looking at giving up:
CF Lane Thomas (clears a 40-man spot)
3B Evan Mendoza or 1B Luken Baker
RHP Alvaro Seijas or Francisco Justo or Diego Cordero
What say you, Cardinals fans?