Could Signing Whit Merrifield Make Sense for the Milwaukee Brewers?

The Brewers seem to have a need for more infield depth, signing free agent Whit Merrifield could fill the hole.

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages
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As the offseason rolls on, the Brewers still have several holes to fill on their roster, could veteran infielder Whit Merrifield make sense for Milwaukee?

The soon-to-be 35-year-old is coming off of 1.5 seasons in Toronto and had a solid 2023 season where he accumulated 1.5 fWAR and put up a 93 wRC+ in 592 plate appearances while hitting 11 home runs and slashing /.272/.318/.382 splitting time between second base and left field. Merrifield declined his one-year, $18MM mutual option after this season, indicating he is likely looking for a multi-year deal.

It is yet to be seen how new manager Pat Murphy will operate and fill out the lineup cards; however, platoons are becoming more recoginzed and prominently featured, having a solid right-handed option to play second base would provide a good compliment for incumbent Brice Turang. Turang struggled offensively his rookie season, specifically against left-handed pitching, recording a 35 wRC+ in 73 plate appearances.

Last year, the Brewers did not have particularly good production from their right-handed second basemen as the collection of Andruw Monasterio, Owen Miller, Jahmai Jones, and Luis Urias recorded a collective 76 wRC+ while playing at second base. League-wide, right-handed second basemen had a wRC+ of 99, so the Brewers were well below that, offensively speaking.

Given Merrifield is entering his age 35 season, a long term deal seems unlikely. He may sign for a multi-year deal, maybe a two-year deal with a option for a third could make sense given his age.

There are some batted ball concerns with Merrifield that could indicate decline is coming sooner rather than later. Per Baseball Savant, Merrifield was in the bottom 1% of average exit velocity, bottom 2% in HardHit% and bottom 5% for xSLG, and xwOBA. And one of the batters listed as most similar to Merrifield's 2023 batted ball profile was Owen Miller.

Earlier in the offseason it was reported the Brewers were interested in former Yankee's infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa prior to the free agent signing with Toronto on a two year deal. Kiner-Falefa did offer experience at shortstop and third base, which Merrifield does not really have, but it does show the Brewers were looking for more depth, something Merrifield could add.

Adding Whit Merrifield could make sense for the Brewers given their desire for depth and platoon options; however, if a two-year, $15MM deal for Kiner-Falefa was presumebly too much, a two-year, $20MM contract with a $7MM option or whatever Merrifield's market is shaping up to be could be too much for the Brewers.

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