Former Royal Merrifield joins Phillies

Whit Merrifield, who was traded from Kansas City to Toronto in 2021, has signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Merrifield hit .272 last season with the Blue Jays.



February 20, 2024 - 1:14 PM

New Philadelphia Phillies player Whit Merrifield enters his first day of spring training on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida. Photo by Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Whit Merrifield was willing to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies for less guaranteed money and perhaps less playing time than he could get elsewhere.

“It checked a lot of boxes for me,” the 35-year-old infielder and outfielder said Monday after finalizing an $8 million, one-year contract. “The reputation of this team and this clubhouse gets around. Watching some of these playoff games in Philadelphia, I wanted to be a part of it. I’m really thrilled.”

Merrifield gets a $7 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $8 million club option for 2025 with a $1 million buyout.

“I’ve been a three-time All-Star. I’ve led the league in hits a couple times. I’ve led the league in stolen bases. I’ve led the league in all these different things that I feel like I’ve proven that I’m here and that I can play,” Merrifield said. “I was an All-Star last year. I’ve done that. I want to win, though, so I’m here to do whatever I need to do to win and to help this team win, whether it’s saying I should be the cheerleader for 162 games — I don’t think that’s why they brought me here, but if that’s what they want me to do, I just want to win.”

The 35-year-old hit .272 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs last season while with the Toronto Blue Jays.

“He’s a complete baseball player,” right fielder Nick Castellanos said. “He plays the game the right way.”

Merrifield has 201 stolen bases and led the American League while with the Kansas City Royals three times. He topped the AL with 206 hits and 10 triples in 2019.

“He is somebody we’ve had our eye on for an extended period,” president of operations Dave Dombrowski said. “He can play multiple positions. We like him as a player. We were concerned at first: Would he accept the type of role we’d have on the club?”

Merrifield is expected to provide a solid right-handed bat off the bench and also play the outfield. The Phillies entered spring training without starting left fielder Brandon Marsh, who had left knee surgery two weeks ago that was expected to sideline him for three to four weeks.

“The super-utility role is underappreciated,” Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber said. “Whit’s done that at a high level, pretty much since he’s come into the big leagues. When you can add someone of his caliber to the roster, that makes you much more dangerous.”

Merrifield has mostly played second base with the Royals but was an outfielder last year. He has proven to be dependable, playing every game for Kansas City from 2019-21.

“Really, he can play anywhere on the diamond,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “It’s actually pulling guys out of the lineup that’s gonna be trouble because these guys love to play. But we’re gonna have to do it at times.”

Merrifield and Toronto both declined his $18 million mutual option for 2024, allowing him to become a free agent.

Right-hander Caleb Ort was designated for assignment to open a roster spot, then was traded to Baltimore for cash.

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