Coming into the 2024 season, the Philadelphia Phillies starting lineup was mostly set, except for a few potential changes in left and centerfield. Phillies fans are still jumping at the bit for the team to make a deep splash for someone like Cody Bellinger, although everything Dave Dombrowski has said so far points to that not happening. The Phillies, however, did bolster their team early in spring training, signing Whit Merrifield to a 1 year, $8million deal, with an option for 2025. Whit, a former All-star, comes with a great pedigree, someone who knows how to hit, steal and score runs in bunches. Whit was an All-star for the Toronto Blue Jays, his 3rd midsummer appearance, where he finished the season batting .272 with 66 runs scored and 26 stolen bases but did finish the year struggling mightily. The Phillies, by all accounts, will have Johan Rojas manning centerfield with Whit stepping in for the currently injured Brandon Marsh in left field, while he recovers from surgery. Whit brings a great presence to the locker room, where he looks to be our superutility, previously making appearances at 2B, 3B, SS, and outfield. (PS, Phillies fans have already given Whit the greatest nickname to come out of Philadelphia in years….. Wiz Whit)

Whit seems to check all the boxes for what Philadelphia needs. Another veteran presence that can help mold Bryson Stott and Alec Bohm, a gamer who is always looking for more, similar to our lord and savior Chase Utley, and provides a solid right-handed bat off the bench. “He’s a complete baseball player,” Nick Castellanos said. “He plays the game the right way.“ Merrifield has 201 career stolen bases and led the American League three separate times with the Kansas City Royals. In his best season, he led the AL with 206 hits and 10 triples in 2019. “He is somebody we’ve had our eye on for an extended period,” president of operations Dave Dombrowski said. “He can play multiple positions. We like him as a player. We were concerned at first: Would he accept the type of role we’d have on the club?” Merrifield had mostly played infield with the Royals but was an outfielder last year in Toronto. He has proven to be dependable, playing every game for Kansas City from 2019-21. “Really, he can play anywhere on the diamond,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “It’s actually pulling guys out of the lineup that’s gonna be trouble because these guys love to play. But we’re gonna have to do it at times.”

But what made Whit sign in Philadelphia? Whit Merrifield had two teams on the top of his list at the start of the offseason. His priorities were clear as day; The 35-year-old wants to win. Other teams had interest in him as an everyday second baseman. “But those teams weren’t in the Phillies’ position,” Merrifield said. He was willing to take on a lesser role to be part of a team that has a realistic chance of winning the World Series. “It checked a lot of boxes for me, the reputation of this team and this clubhouse gets around. Watching some of these playoff games in Philadelphia, I wanted to be a part of it. I’m really thrilled.” “I’ve been a three-time All-Star. I’ve led the league in hits a couple times. I’ve led the league in stolen bases. I’ve led the league in all these different things that I feel like I’ve proven that I’m here and that I can play,” Merrifield said. “I was an All-Star last year. I’ve done that. I want to win, though, so I’m here to do whatever I need to do to win and to help this team win, whether it’s saying I should be the cheerleader for 162 games — I don’t think that’s why they brought me here, but if that’s what they want me to do, I just want to win.”

With the signing the Phillies do find themselves in somewhat of a gray area, which is why I believe they are done making moves unless something drastic were to happen i.e. injuries or someone becomes available that puts this team over the top. With the Merrifield signing and Alec Bohm set to make $4 million after winning his arbitration hearing, Cot’s Baseball Contracts puts the Phillies at a $260.8 million luxury tax payroll. They are now over the second tax threshold of $257 million. Cot’s Baseball Contracts projects that the Phillies will pay nearly $12.4 million in tax, up from about $8 million before the Merrifield signing. There will be no draft penalty until they reach $277 million in tax payroll. But the Phillies will pay their highest tax rates in 2024 — a 62% tax, up from 50% — because they have now spent above the CBT threshold for three years in a row. The good thing for Philadelphia though, is that John Middleton is willing to do whatever it takes and that’s why Phillies fans love him. But John does have one more request… “I want our F’n trophy back!”

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