Phillies buoy World Series hopes, sign super utilityman Whit Merrifield for 2024

After rumors and speculation all week, the Phillies added a big depth piece to a team that hopes to make another run at the World Series this season.
Free agent Whit Merrifield signs with the Philadelphia Phillies
Free agent Whit Merrifield signs with the Philadelphia Phillies / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

It had been rumored for a while now, and where there's smoke, there's fire — at least in the case of the Philadelphia Phillies and free agent Whit Merrifield.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the Phillies and Merrifield are in agreement on a one-year, $8 million contract for the 2024 season. Passan posted the reported deal late Friday afternoon.

The move comes after speculation that the three-time All-Star would make his decision on where he'd be playing this season by the end of the weekend. Both MLB Network's Jon Morosi and FanSided's Robert Murray reported hearing that his decision would happen by the end of the weekend, with five teams involved. Murray also said that the Phillies were one of the interested teams.

Veteran Merrifield brings valuable depth and versatility

Merrifield, 35, brings valuable depth to a star-studded Phillies team with few glaring holes. The former Kansas City Royal and Toronto Blue Jay will certainly help shore up the Phillies' weaknesses with a right-handed bat and another outfield glove.

The right-handed hitting Merrifield played 145 games with Toronto last season, hitting .272 with an even .700 OPS. He drove in 67 runs, hit 11 home runs, and stole 26 bases. He struck out at a 17.1 percent clip, his highest rate since 2020.

While his final numbers at the plate look decent, it was a tale of two seasons for Merrifield. He carried the sluggish Blue Jays offense almost single-handedly for a couple of months, finishing the first half hitting .286, sparked by an incredible month of July in which he hit .356 with a 171 wRC+.

The skills at the plate aren't necessarily why Dave Dombrowski and general manager Sam Fuld went out and got Merrifield, though. They were likely enamored by his defensive versatility. He split 2023 mostly between second base and left field, but has played all over the diamond throughout his eight-year career.

With Phillies position players already showing up to training camp and the first full team workout scheduled for Monday, Feb. 19, the team with aspirations of returning to the World Series will welcome Merrifield to Clearwater soon.