Is Whit Merrifield Boston’s Lefty Solution?

It’s no secret to the rest of the league that the Red Sox have struggled against southpaw pitching this year. They’re owners of a modest .727 OPS against such pitching and have a hard contact rate of just 32.3%. Those numbers rank 14th and 24th in the league, not something you expect out of a playoff team.

They’ve fallen on hard times at the second base position in particular. Eduardo Nunez, filling in for the injured Dustin Pedroia, has produced a paltry 42 wRC+ against lefties.  His -0.6 fWAR proves that he has been more of a detriment than anything for the team. While super-utility man Brock Holt boasts an impressive 1.044 OPS against left handers, his career splits suggest that some severe regression to the mean is imminent.

Their in-house alternatives are Blake Swihart and Tzu-Wei Lin, neither of whom have proven they can hit consistently at the big league level. Banking on the return of aging veterans Dustin Pedroia and Brandon Phillips seems less than favorable. So that leaves the Red Sox with only one option: exploring the trade market.

D.J. LeMahieu has been mentioned several times in trade rumors involving the Red Sox, and his availability hinges on how the Rockies view their playoff chances come July 31st. One team that has already started the rebuilding process, however, is the Kansas City Royals. The Royals sit 20.5 games out of first place in the worst division in baseball. Dealing star closer Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals was a clear sign to the league that they’re open for business.

This is where Whit Merrifield comes in. Merrifield’s offense, while not overwhelming, is leaps and bounds better than anything the Red Sox could hope for at the second base position as of right now. His .360 OBP adds much needed offensive depth to an otherwise lackluster bottom third of the order.

He also provides positional versatility that other trade candidates can’t offer. Merrifield has the ability to play both second base and the entire outfield, thus giving manager Alex Cora multiple ways to construct the lineup.

But there’s one thing that helps Merrifield stand out from the pack: He absolutely mashes against lefties. In 107 at-bats against lefties in 2018, Merrifield has compiled an astounding .383/.421/.598 slash line against them. All 4 of his homers this season have come against southpaws, and his 44.0% pull% against them would play well off of the Green Monster at Fenway.

However, with all this being said, Merrifield is on an extremely team friendly contract and looks to be part of Kansas City’s future plans. He’s only 29 and would likely command a large prospect haul, something Boston can’t provide. Nonetheless, he remains an intriguing option for the Red Sox. Merrifield could add a whole new dimension to their lineup.

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