I think we can all admit that there was no World Series winner in 2015.
While the Royals technically won it all, it was the Jays title to win, and if not for some whacky umpiring, the Jays probably would have been a 3-time World Series champion.
Fast forward seven years and the Royals have done sweet fuck all since that title win. They entered their rebuild many years ago, yet the team has the worst record in the MLB at 17-37.
That doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have some good players that could help the Jays make noise in the playoffs. Let’s look at the three players I believe that the Jays should target from the Royals.
Imagine winning the World Series in 2018, and then being shipped to Kansas City just two seasons later. That is the case for left fielder Andrew Benintendi.
Despite playing for the Red Sox for his first five seasons, Benintendi is a player I enjoy watching. For his career, he’s slashing .277/.350/.435 with 70 homers in 2862 plate appearances. He’s a career 109 wRC+ hitter and has a BB% of 9.7 and a K% of 18.5%.
In any season where he’s had over 150 plate appearances, the left fielder has hit double digit homers, making him an ideal target if they want to platoon Gurriel and a left bating outfielder.
This season, he’s slashing a career best .320/.382/.411 with only two homers in 220 plate appearances. However, his wRC+ is also at a career best 132 and his K% has dropped to 14.5%, which will be a career high if he maintains it.
While the home run totals aren’t there just yet, it’s important to remember that the Royals play at Kauffman stadium, a notorious pitcher’s park.
Defensively, he has put up a career 32 Defensive Runs saved in left field, including a +2 this season. His Outs Above Average sits at a career -16, but has been average since 2020.
Benintendi also played some centre field, posting a career -7 DRS and -1 OAA. However, he hasn’t played at centre since 2019.
The 27-year-old is making $8,500,000 for the rest of 2022 and will be a free agent come the end of the season. While Benintendi will likely cost a few prospects and could later walk in free agency, the production he’d bring playing at Rogers Centre would make the cost of acquisition worth it.
Unfortunately, the Jays wouldn’t be able to extend a qualifying offer to Benintendi due to the fact they would acquire him mid-season. This means that he is a pure rental unless the Jays decide to re-sign him.
Benintendi is a left-handed batting left fielder who’d be an upgrade over Ramiel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer. He certainly fits a positional need. I alluded to it earlier, but a platoon role between him and Lourdes Gurriel Jr could be a huge benefit to the team.
In every edition of this series, I will always include a reliever as I believe a team can never have enough arms in the pen. This time, we’ll focus on the Royals’ closer, Scott Barlow.
Scott really set the Baw Low in his first three seasons in the bigs. In that time frame, he posted a 4.14 ERA and 3.43 FIP in 115.1 innings pitched. This isn’t bad by any means, but in contrast to the pitcher he is today, he looked like a garbage time pitcher.
In his last two seasons, he has posted a 2.22 ERA and 2.95 FIP in 97.1 innings pitched. In 2022 he has a sky low ERA of 1.57 while his FIP sits at a career low 3.96.
For his career, his K/9 sits at 10.96 while his BB/9 is at 3.60. While his 2022 BB/9 has dropped to 3.13, his K/9 has also plummeted to 8.61, which is a career low.
What would make Barlow so expensive is the fact that he is under team control until the end of the 2024 season. This season, Barlow is making $2,400,000, which barely puts a dent in the Blue Jays payroll.
Despite being listed as a closer by Baseball Reference, I think it’s better to call Barlow a high leverage reliever. Last season, he registered 16 saves, but also 14 holds, which essentially means he held the lead for the closer.
It’s much the same this season, as he has registered five saves and four holds. If the Jays were to acquire Barlow, I could see him as the setup man for Jordan Romano.
Lastly, we have Whit Merrifield, who is quite polarizing to me.
In his career, Merrifield is slashing .286/.332/.426 with 71 homers in 3629 plate appearances. He also has a career K% of 15.7% with a BB% of 6.1%. His career wRC+ sits at 102, which is average. Since his debut in 2016, he has a fWAR of 17, including a 3.1 in 2021.
However, Merrifield’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff in 2022. He’s slashing just .217/.258/.308 with three homers and a wRC+ of only 60. His K% has lowered to 13.3% while he’s walked only 5.8% of the time.
He’s certainly not the 2018 version of himself, where he slashed .304/.367/.438 and had 12 homers and a wRC+ of 119. He also finished with a career high 4.9 fWAR that season.
Defensively, he plays all over the place, having spent time at first base, second base, third base, and all of the outfield positions. However, he’s only played significant time at second, centre field and right field in his career.
His best position is second base, where he has a DRS of 18 and OAA of 11 in 4771.2 innings played at that position. His secondary position is right field, where he’s posted a -8 DRS and 3 OAA in 1166 innings played.
While he isn’t an upgrade over Espinal, especially due to his rough 2022, I would say that Merrifield is certainly an upgrade of Cavan Biggio, meaning he could take the “super utility” role away from Cavan.
There are team friendly contracts, and then there is Whit Merrifield’s contract. This season, the 33-year-old is making $7,000,000. Next season, he’ll make a base salary of $2,750,000, with an incentive of $4,000,000 if he spends less than 110 days on the IL.
Merrifield also has a mutual option for the 2024 season, where he would make $18,000,000. There is a buyout of $500,000 attached to his contract.
While his statistics haven’t been up to snuff in 2022, it’s important to remember that he finished with a fWAR of 3.1 last season, while it’s only been around 50 games in 2022. Merrifield’s team-friendly contract is why teams would give up a pretty hefty package.
That begs the question, does Whit Merrifield fill a positional need?
Honestly, not really. With Espinal playing at an all-star level, Merrifield would only play the outfield. As mentioned earlier, his defense is subpar to average at the position. He also hasn’t really moved around the field much since 2018.
This isn’t mentioning the hefty package I assume it would take to pry Whit Merrifield away from the Royals. While he is a great player on a team-friendly contract, I don’t really see the Jays needing him.
Are the Royals an ideal trading partner:
The only player I could see the Jays being interested in is Andrew Benintendi. I believe that he could significantly improve the outfield while not costing an arm and a leg to acquire at the deadline.
The Royals suck, but other than Benintendi, I don’t see them making a lot of moves this trade deadline.
Previously in the Series….
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. The next team in the series will be the Detroit Tigers, as the Jays start a series with them on Friday, June 10th.