Phillies’ $126 Million Extension Predicted to Push Out 3-Time All Star

Whit Merrifield

Getty Whit Merrifield signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies that includes an $8 million club option for 2025

The Philadelphia Phillies made history by agreeing to a three-year, $126 million extension with Zack Wheeler that will pay the ace the highest-ever average annual value of any MLB contract extension ever.

While the deal secures the top of the Phillies rotation until 2028, it also stretches a payroll that was already committed to long-term deals for Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and other stars. As a result, Zachary Rotman of FanSided predicts it will also force the team to move on from Whit Merrifield, a three-time All Star they acquired this offseason on a one-year, $8 million deal that includes a club option for 2025.

“Having Merrifield as a bench player is a tremendous luxury that many teams wish they could have, but with Wheeler set to make so much money in 2024, will Philadelphia really exercise his $8 million club option?” Rotman asked. “Perhaps they will if he has a big year, but it’s hard to justify paying a bench player that much money when they have a ton of money on their books already. It feels more likely that the Phillies will … try to find a cheaper option.”  

Losing Whit Merrifield Would Mean Losing More Than a Bench Option for the Philadelphia Phillies

The acquisition of Merrifield seemed to be a savvy one for the Phillies as a roster upgrade that could come in handy if their core suffers injury, particularly for the team’s relatively shallow group of outfielders.

“Merrifield won’t be an everyday player on this Phillies team without an injury or two taking place, but his versatility will come in handy as a utility man coming off the bench,” Rotman noted. “Just this past season he was an All-Star with the Blue Jays. While his overall numbers weren’t stellar, he was hitting at a .303 clip with a very respectable .781 OPS through July.”

In eight big-league seasons, Merrifield has averaged .284/.330/.420 with All-Star campaigns in 2019 and 2021. He has started 665 games at second base and 319 games in the outfield, primarily in right field. 

The $8 million deal he earned suggests he could be more than solely a bench player in 2024, particularly as he most likely had the chance to find a starting role on another team in free agency.

“That kind of money might suggest Merrifield could be more than just a backup, perhaps playing a super-utility role that starts at second base and corner outfield,” according to NBC Sports.

But with the record-setting extension for Wheeler, the Phillies might have priced themselves out of that type of super-utility luxury for 2025.

Examining the Philadelphia Phillies Payroll for 2025 and Beyond

“When the Wheeler extension kicks in, the Phillies will have approximately $216 million committed toward their 2025 payroll with $211 (million) of that allocated to nine players: Wheeler, (Aaron) Nola, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Taijuan Walker and Jose Alvarado,” NBC Sports Philadelphia reported.

Before agreeing to the extension with Wheeler, team chairman John Middleton suggested the team was saving some “powder” and payroll space for a potential trade deadline acquisition.

All told, Merrifield may not return to the team following Wheeler’s payday as well as the team’s interest in adding another marquee player before the season’s end.

Rotman added that the Wheeler extension could also mean the team will have to move on from relievers Seranthony Dominguez and Matt Strahm in addition to Merrifield. Notably, Realmuto, Schwarber and pitcher Ranger Suarez are all set to become unrestricted free agents in 2026.

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