Phillies' free agent signing already making a strong case for more playing time

The addition of veteran utilityman Whit Merrifield has improved the Phillies' depth, and he's already playing well enough to earn more time in the lineup.
Feb 24, 2024; Dunedin, Florida, USA;  Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Whit Merrifield (9) looks
Feb 24, 2024; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Whit Merrifield (9) looks / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies made a signing this offseason that is already paying off. The club added free agent utility player Whit Merrifield on Feb. 19. The veteran is recently coming off a season in which he made the American League All-Star team. He posted a stat line of .272/.318/.382 along with a .700 OPS in 145 contests.

Merrifield is off to a solid start during spring training with the Phillies

Merrifield has impressed offensively this spring. He has a .385/.385/.846 slash line with a 1.231 OPS in 10 spring training games. The Florence, South Carolina native has gone 10-for-26 with four runs scored, four doubles, two home runs, and seven RBI.

Merrifield has demonstrated his versatility defensively as well. He has played six games at second base, two in left field, and one at third base. His ability to play multiple positions is already proving to be valuable, with the Phillies outfield depth yet to be determined.

Will Merrifield get playing time in the Phillies starting lineup at the start of the regular season?

Outfielder Brandon Marsh returned recently from an injury that kept him out for the first few weeks of spring training. With left fielder Kyle Schwarber transitioning to being the team's primary designated hitter this year, that opens up a spot for Merrifield to play on defense.

Will Johan Rojas be with the Phillies at the start of the regular season? While his defensive skills are invaluable, he has continued to struggle at the plate during spring training. His offensive slump last year during the postseason was a glaring sign that he needs to improve upon. The Dominican has a .184/.205/.316 line with an OPS of .521 in 12 games. He may begin 2024 in the minor leagues if the team doesn't suffer any more injuries to its outfielders.

If Rojas does not begin the year with Philadelphia, manager Rob Thomson could start Marsh in center field and possibly start Merrifield in left. Cristian Pache can be used in left or center and Jake Cave can also play in left. Merrifield's addition gives the team another option in the outfield, as they were short-handed before the signing, especially when Marsh was unavailable due to a knee injury.

Thomson described what Merrifield's role would be to him before the 35-year-old signed, per's Todd Zolecki. Phillies president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, who suggested the manager call the veteran to explain the role, said, "To make sure he would describe the role, which would not be an everyday role. And Whit told Rob Thomson that he would be happy to accept the role. He understood what the playing time was.”

The utility player's response to the skipper was, "But I’m going to play well enough to get more at-bats.”

Once Merrifield arrived in Clearwater, he said of his anticipated role with Philadelphia, “It’ll be a little different. I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to do things to prove myself and to prove that I can play at this level. And at this point … I feel like I’ve proven that I’m here and I can play. I want to win now. And so I’m here to do whatever I need to do to win.”

The Phillies are in a position to win, and the new addition is eager to contribute to their success in 2024.