Guy: Is Whit Merrifield the Last Piece of the Puzzle for Yankees?

Guy: Is Whit Merrifield the Last Piece of the Puzzle for Yankees?

by January 19, 2020 0 comments

It seems like every article I have written for Prime Time Sports Talk so far has started off with talking about the incredible season and impact that D.J. LeMahieu had for the Yankees in 2019 … and this article will be no different.

LeMahieu started the season on the bench, but would end up becoming the Yankees’ everyday leadoff man after only 14 games by demonstrating his hitting prowess and ability to get on base.

LeMahieu would end up placing fourth in the AL MVP voting and had one of the most dynamic seasons a free agent-turned-Yankee has had in a very long time.

Following LeMahieu in the lineup was former AL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up, Aaron Judge. Judge was viewed as the Yankees’ best all-around hitter, so the analytics suggested that he bat second behind LeMahieu, and Yankees skipper Aaron Boone agreed.

In Judge’s rookie season, he slugged 52 home runs and drove in 114 runs. While analytics demand that the best hitter bat early in the lineup to get them more opportunities at the plate, Judge belongs either in the three-hole or in the clean-up spot. His RBI capabilities, coupled with the fact that if there are runners on base, he will likely get more pitches to hit and drive, should be enough reason to move him back a spot or two in the lineup.

Additionally, LeMahieu is better suited as a No. 2 hitter. It would be ideal if he would a runner on base (preferably with speed) that he can drive in, especially considering that LeMahieu excels with runners in scoring position and drove in 102 runs while primarily hitting from the leadoff spot. If he were to have an elite hitter in front of him to begin the game, the Yankees would be able to consistently grab the lead in the first inning, which would be huge as the Yankees are one of those teams that feeds off their own momentum.

That is why the Yankees should pursue Royals utilityman, Whit Merrifield.

Merrifield has a .296 career batting average and .348 OBP. In 2019, he hit .331 with RISP. He also broke the Kansas City hitting streak record in 2019 originally held by Hall of Famer George Brett by recording a hit in 31 straight games.

Hitting is not the only thing that Merrifield brings to the table, who is an elite base-runner and has led the MLB in stolen bases twice during his four-year career. On top of all that, Merrifield is one of the most versatile defensive players in baseball. He is a career second baseman, but has played a significant amount of games in the outfield including a handful in center field and even dabbled a bit at first base. (In fact, MLB Network listed Merrifield in their Top 10 CF’s list. His ability as an outfielder is really a great asset.)

His leadership qualities are also excellent, and with veteran Brett Gardner only on the team for one more season, the Yankees could use another gritty role model who will do whatever it takes to win through his old-school, small-ball style of play.

Last January, the Royals signed Merrifield, their lone star, to a four-year, $16.5 million extension. This is one of the most club-friendly, non-arbitration deals in baseball as the 30-year-old will not be getting more than $7 million over any of the next four seasons.

Getting the Royals to part with their beloved team leader will take some compensation on the Yankees’ part. But the Yankees have a few players that don’t seem to fit into their long-term plans, and if the Gerrit Cole signing has shown us anything, it is that the Yankees want to win now.

USA TODAY

If New York were to acquire Merrifield, the best possible lineup concept would look something like this:

  1. Whit Merrifield (CF)
  2. D.J. LeMahieu (2B)
  3. Gleyber Torres (SS)
  4. Aaron Judge (RF)
  5. Miguel Andujar (DH)
  6. Giancarlo Stanton (LF)
  7. Luke Voit (1B)
  8. Gary Sanchez (C)
  9. Gio Urshela (3B)

When LeMahieu joined the Yankees last winter, he seemed to bring a bit of change to the Yankees’ style and approach by moving runners over, getting base hits, and putting together rallies. These all became commonplace during the 2019 season, and in no small part due to LeMahieu’s arrival and technique.

Merrifield could create a similar impact and affect the culture in a similar way to which LeMahieu did, and that kind of culture wins championships…

Well, that and banging trash cans…

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