Royals agree with All-Star Merrifield on restructured deal

Kansas City Royals' Whit Merrifield, right, celebrates with Carlos Santana after he scored on a double by Andrew Benintendi during the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — 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 the 2024 season.

Merrifield, who made his second All-Star team last season, will make $7 million this season with $2.75 million with up to $4 million in escalators. The mutual option is for $18 million with a $500,000 buyout.

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 just his bat and baserunning ability. One of the league’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 against Cleveland, extending his club record — and the longest active streak in the majors — to 470 consecutive games played.

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