MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports that the Royals and second baseman Whit Merrifield are nearing an agreement on a four-year contract extension. The deal will be worth $16.25 million with an additional $2 million available through performance incentives, Morosi adds.
Merrifield, 30, becomes eligible for salary arbitration after the 2019 season, so the extension would cover all three arbitration-eligible seasons before he can enter free agency.
Last year, Merrifield was one of the best players in baseball, batting .304/.367/.438 with 12 home runs, 60 RBI, 88 runs scored. He led all of baseball with 192 hits and 45 stolen bases. Defensive metrics also rated him highly. Per FanGraphs, Merrifield ranked 16th among qualified position players in WAR, tied with the Braves’ Freddie Freeman at 5.2. 2.0 WAR is considered average.
Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.
Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.
Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.