Whit Merrifield deal graded: Phillies add depth and options at little cost

Signing a versatile defender and reliable bat to provide a boost off the bench may not be the exact signing that fans wanted, but it's exactly what the Phillies need.
Grading the Philadelphia Phillies' Whit Merrifield signing
Grading the Philadelphia Phillies' Whit Merrifield signing / Cole Burston/GettyImages

Jordan Montgomery would be nice. Cody Bellinger is debatable.

However, what all Philadelphia Phillies fans should be able to agree on is that this team needed a reliable hitter in the wings. Make that a guy who can cover both the diamond and the outfield when needed. How about a 2023 All-Star who was red hot for a good chunk of last season? (We'll get to those last couple of months).

For just a one-year deal at a puny price, Whit Merrifield could prove to be exactly what the Phillies need going into a season in which they would like to finally push Atlanta for the NL East Division.

Here are Merrifield's splits form 2023:

  • vs. RHP: 412 AB, 114 H, 18 2B, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 27 BB, 80 K, .277/.324/.379
  • vs. LHP: 135 AB, 35 H, 9 2B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 9 BB, 27 K, .259/.299/.393

Those numbers are solid enough for a bench piece, right? But if you dig a little deeper, there's a much more interesting story in Merrifield's 2023 season.

Going into August, he was hitting .303/.351/.430, which is much tastier looking from a new signing. His last two months in Toronto were arguably the worst of his career. His average of .212/.250/.288 to finish the year brought his numbers down to what we see above. Do you know what else it brought down, though? His price.

If Merrifield had maintained his All-Star-worthy numbers the whole year, you probably wouldn't be reading this article right now. He slumped, turned 35, and questions were raised. This all led to the Phillies being able to snatch him up for a one-year, $8 million deal that is almost all upside and very little downside.

Reasons for his hot and cold year could be plentiful and wide-ranging. There are rumblings that he wasn't particularly happy in Toronto, as evidenced by some statements questioning managerial decisions during the playoffs. Perhaps the tight-knit band of brothers and belief in the staff in Philadelphia will make him feel comfortable enough to put up his best numbers again.

And if not?

Well, he's mostly here to cover for Johan Rojas and Brandon Marsh. If everything goes according to plan, Merrifield will be asked to get a couple of hits, steal a couple of bases like he has been one to do, and be a veteran in the clubhouse. Bringing him in instead of someone like Bellinger shows that the Phillies are still committed to nurturing the young guys and letting them play, while also being realistic and providing a plan B for a team that wants to win now. It's a great move all around.

Final grade for Whit Merrifield signing: B+

To get a perfect A+ grade, it really needs to be a player who dramatically moves the team closer to a championship. While Merrifield doesn't quite meet that criteria, he does help move the needle in the right direction, and it shows that the organization has a plan and is sticking to it.