The complicated future of Merrifield and the Royals
This is the season of baseball players changing teams and one of the sport’s more valuable trade assets is Royals property. Done right, they could push some other contender toward a championship while bolstering their own chances in the future. A win-win.
The reasons they probably won’t do that tell the story of who the Royals are, who they see themselves to be, and the foundation of their plan to win another championship.
Whit Merrifield led all majorleaguers in hits and steals while playing five defensive positions. He has four years of club control remaining, and in 2019 will make slightly more than the league minimum salary.
He is productive, cheap, versatile, athletic, and could instantly fit toward the top of a championship club’s order.
Internally, the Royals believe the core of their next contender will be in the big leagues by 2021, when Merrifield will be
32. Viewed coldly as return on investment, now is the best time to trade him. The younger talent acquired would be maturing by 2021, when Merrifield is likely to be fading.
Dayton Moore, the architect and foreman of the Royals’ last world champion, knows that Merrifield probably will never be more valuable in the eyes of other teams — he will never be younger, never be cheaper, and never offer more years of club control.
All of that is true, and so is this: Moore is unlikely to trade. Three primary considerations stand above the others, each a mix of practicality, emotion, and commitment to slow cook the next championship core.
No. 1: Who is the right trade partner?
The trade of Zack Greinke after the 2010 season is the Royals’ closest comparison to what a trade of Merrifield would look like now.
There are significant differences. Greinke was four years younger and better than Merrifield, who is cheaper and with
of the way his team played in a performance that was reminiscent of many of those great Shockers teams that came before them.
“They have to understand the strength of our program has been toughness and playing with intelligence and being gritty,” Marshall said. “Whether we’re smaller or slower, just overcoming that by playing angry and playing harder and wanting to win more than the other team.”
Tuesday’s loss hit the players hard. Friday offered multiple chances for WSU to let it snowball, especially down by 10 after five minutes.
But the Shockers showed resiliency in their determined effort not to lose again, even to a highly rated opponent.
“We showed our heart,” senior Haynes-Jones said. “We showed we can go out and play through adversity and come out with a big win like this. It’s definitely a confidence booster.”
3. ‘I COULDN’T LET MY TEAM DOWN AGAIN’
McDuffie has certainly benefited from the confidence instilled in him by his coaching staff and teammates.
After McDuffie missed eight of 11 shots against Louisiana Tech, his team had his back. He had been the team’s best player all summer. He was its leader. His teammates didn’t turn on him after one poor performance, and that meant everything to McDuffie.
“It’s not hard when you got a bunch of teammates that look out for you, love you, they know how good you are and how hard you work in practice,” McDuffie said. “I knew I had to stay positive.”
Even when McDuffie missed his first four shots on Friday, he remained confident.
“Those shots, they were good shots,” McDuffie said. “My coaches kept telling me to keep shooting, just keep going. I didn’t put my head down, I just kept going. I know I couldn’t let my team down again.”
Sure enough, those open looks began falling for McDuffie.
Ironically, it was McDuffie’s worst shot attempt of the night — a flailing 5-footer when he was falling to the ground that rattled in — that got him going.
McDuffie said his mindset was important to his success on Friday. He finished the game 12 of 19 from the field, including a career-best 6-of-9 shooting on threes.
“I knew the next one will go in, I kept telling myself that,” McDuffie said. “I just had to stay confident. I didn’t try to
4. A SURPRISE SHOOTING PERFORMANCE
After the way WSU shot in its exhibition game and in its season opener, Marshall said he was pleasantly surprised when the Shockers made 12 of 22 three-pointers and half of their shots from the field.
But it was also a surprise because WSU’s warmup routine was thrown for a loop due to heavy traffic in Annapolis.
“I don’t know what happened, but our little five-minute drive from the hotel to the arena was like a gridlock we don’t see in Wichita,” Marshall said. “I felt like I was in New York City. We literally had to take another route and go through downtown Annapolis to get here.
“By that time, we were scrambling to get dressed. Maybe the urgency of getting here and having to stretch and warm up and get ready to play a basketball game was to our benefit.”
After struggling from the floor on Tuesday, WSU’s two seniors, McDuffie and HaynesJones, were excellent against Providence. Collectively, they made 18 of 33 shots and scored 47 points.
WSU also corrected its other weakness from Tuesday: rounding. After losing the rebounding battle to Louisiana Tech by 11 at home, the Shockers won the battle on the glass against Providence by four and grabbed 47 percent of the available offensive rebounds.
Wichita State guard Samajae Haynes-Jones drives past Providence guard David Duke in the second half of Friday’s game at the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Md.