Whit Merrifield reveals awesome reason why he chose Phillies in free agency

How did Merrifield and the Phillies end up together?

How did Whit Merrifield end up with the Philadelphia Phillies?
How did Whit Merrifield end up with the Philadelphia Phillies? / Lauren Leigh Bacho/GettyImages

When the Philadelphia Phillies announced that they had signed Whit Merrifield, there were understandably mixed reactions among Phillies fans. Some had been hoping for a bigger splash, while others were just happy the front office had done something.

With some time to digest the one-year, $7 million ($8 million guaranteed with the $1 million 2025 buyout), it seems like a shrewd move from general manager Sam Fuld and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Merrifield immediately strengthens the Phillies bench, giving manager Rob Thomson a viable right-handed bat to fill in for Brandon Marsh in left and Bryson Stott at second — and anywhere else, really.

Whit Merrifield wanted to play in front of Phillies fans

So, how did we get here? Why did Merrifield finally decide to come to Philadelphia?

In part, because of what he had seen and heard about playing for the Phillies. Merrifield says that apart from wanting to win, the Phillies clubhouse, which has a reputation around the league, and the fans' passion drew him to finally sign with his new team.

"The reputation of this team and its clubhouse, it gets around," Merrifield said on his first day in camp. "And to be a part of it was something I really wanted to be able to do. Watching some of these playoff games in Philadelphia, [I] wanted to be a part of it..."

That tracks. Citizens Bank Park takes on a life of its own in October. The Philly playoff experience has become the pinnacle of postseason atmosphere and a fortress of success for the Phillies.

But how did the three-time All-Star wind up finally coming to the Phillies? After all, it takes two to tango. It appeared most of the offseason that the Phillies were sitting idly by, content with the roster — which they are — but there's more to the story that brought the 35-year-old veteran to Philadelphia.

Whit Merrifield was a Phillies' target early on

According to Dombrowski, he and Fuld had identified Merrifield as a target early on in the offseason. They liked his versatility and felt like he was the caliber of player they needed to complement the already star-studded lineup.

“He [Merrifield] is somebody we've had our eye on for an extended period," Dombrowski said at a press conference on Monday. "One of the names we had identified that might fit for us this year because he can play multiple positions, we like him as a player, we think he’s a championship-type caliber player."

So, if the Phillies knew he would be a good fit, what took so long to get him into red pinstripes?

"We were concerned at first, would he accept the type of role that we had on the club," Dombrowski explained. "The second thing, earlier in the winter time, they [Merrifield's camp] were looking for a multi-year deal at that time, and we weren't prepared to give that type of contract.”

The explanation makes sense, given how this offseason has gone. Players have been holding out for the deals they want, and teams, for the most part, have been unwilling to budge.

Plus, Dombrowski has previously spoken about how they've had trouble finding top-end pieces because of the lack of available full-time roles. But the chance of winning a World Series swayed Merrifield to sign in Philadelphia anyway, even over the chance at a starting job elsewhere.

"Whiz Whit" just wants to win.

How did the final agreement fall into place?

Merrifield and the Phillies got closer and closer to an agreement, no doubt accelerated by training camps opening around Florida and Arizona.

“Over the last week is when it really picked up," Dombrowski said of the final process. "We went back and forth quite a few times between his agent and myself, and then we were able to finally come to meet. He was always a name that appealed to us, but just didn’t know if the circumstances were going to work.”

Merrifield also consulted with Phillies superstar Bryce Harper, who has become known as one of the most vocal recruiters for the team.

"We talked about two weeks ago, me and him," Harper said when asked about the newest Phillie. "Had some conversations about Philly and things like that. He's really excited to be here. ... He's had such a great career, even when he was younger at South Carolina as well. Two-time National champ, he knows how to win, he's a leader."

"He's going to be a gamer for us," Harper continued. "And I think Philadelphia should be really excited to get this guy. I think he's going to help us a lot."

Let's hope Merrifield's addition helps the built-to-win-now Phillies achieve their goals of heading back to the World Series so he can experience the winning and the crazy Citizens Bank playoff atmosphere plenty of times this fall.