Image credit: Whit Merrifield (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
In a deal just minutes before the 6 p.m. trade deadline the Royals traded two-time all-star Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays. In return the Royals received a pair of the Blue Jays’ top prospects in righthanded pitcher Max Castillo and versatile utility player Samad Taylor. The Blue Jays were active on deadline day, acquiring Anthony Bass and Zach Pop earlier in the day.
This move solidifies the Blue Jays lineup, adding a former all-star with positional versatility who can handle a full-time role at second base. The keystone has been one of the few positions that’s underperformed for the Blue Jays this season as their second basemen have hit just .250/.327/.371 in 2022.
The Royals added two major league-ready players in righthander Max Castillo and Samad Taylor. Castillo has spent time with the Blue Jays filling a variety of roles in the bullpen while making a pair of starts. Taylor was 40-man eligible this offseason but was left unprotected by the Blue Jays despite posting a 141 wRC+ with Double-A New Hampshire in 2021.
BLUE JAYS RECEIVE
Whit Merrifield, 2B
A two-time all-star in 2019 and 2021 who has led the American League in stolen bases three times, Merrifield has been an above-average second baseman in the game since becoming a full-time player in 2017. In many ways Merrifield’s game is a throwback to a time gone by, as he looks to put the ball in play and make plays with his legs.
Despite Merrifield’s age of 33 he’s maintained his ability to steal bases, swiping 15 on 18 attempts this season after stealing 40 on 44 attempts in 2021. One of the best contact hitters in the game, Merrifield is difficult to strike out as he’s run a plus contact rate his whole career.
With speed and the ability to move batters along by putting the ball in play, Merrifield should be a run producer in a loaded Blue Jays lineup. Up to this point Merrifield has provided above-average production in mediocre lineups and poor offensive environments. With this trade Merrifield finally has a chance to work in a lineup with run producers around him.
Maximo Castillo, RHP
It’s been a whirlwind 2022 for Castillo, as he pitched his way onto the 40-man roster with his improved pitching over the first few months of the season. Entering the season Castillo wasn’t considered much more than system depth, but in the offseason Castillo switched to a four-seam fastball from his previous sinker and the rest of his arsenal played up off the improved shape. Castillo will mix in a low-80s slider and a high-80s changeup. He’s shown the ability to land all of his pitches for strikes but his fastball command is above that of his secondary pitches at present. Castillo has the three-pitch mix and fastball command to project as a back-end starter almost immediately. He has the type of stuff and command that could also make him an asset in the bullpen long term. He’s a versatile pitcher with a lunch pail attitude willing to fit a variety of roles.
Samad Taylor, 2B/OF
Aggressive—that’s the best way to describe Taylor’s game. Taylor looks to do damage with each swing and pushes for stolen bases once he’s on base. Like a microwave Taylor can provide instant offense with just the click of a button. While Taylor has provided offense the last two seasons coming out of the pandemic—Taylor has hit .278/.364/.470 with 25 home runs, 110 runs, 97 RBIs and 53 stolen bases over his last 157 games—much of it is a product of last season’s production as he’s been just league average in Triple-A this season. Despite the gaudy numbers Taylor has also struck out 172 times over that same sample—more than 26% of the time. There’s also the question of what his long-term defensive home is, as Taylor, despite his tools, is a below-average fielder at multiple positions. He does provide exciting offensive upside with some aggressive tendencies that have hindered his production in Triple-A this season.