All-Star outfielder Whit Merrifield and the Kansas City Royals agreed to a restructured contract late Wednesday in which the club exercised its option for next season and the two sides added a mutual option for 2024.
Merrifield, who made his second All-Star team last season, will earn $7 million this season and $2.75 million in 2023, a figure that would escalate by $4 million if he spends 109 days or fewer on the injured list this campaign. The mutual option is for $18 million with a $500,000 buyout.
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The 33-year-old Merrifield hit .277 with an American League-leading 40 stolen bases and 42 doubles last season, becoming the first player since Charlie Gehringer in 1929 to lead the AL in both categories. Merrifield also had 40-plus doubles and 40-plus steals in 2018, making him one of seven players in big league history with at least two such seasons.
Merrifield’s value to the Royals is more than just his bat and baserunning skill.
One of baseball’s most versatile players, Merrifield is also capable of playing first base, second base and third base along with all three outfield positions.
The growth of second baseman Nicky Lopez last season, and the arrival of top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. at third base this season, means Merrifield will play mostly in the outfield again. That is where he’ll start Thursday’s opener versus Cleveland, extending his club record — and the longest active streak in the majors — to 470 consecutive matches played.
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