Royals, second baseman Whit Merrifield agree to 4-year contract

The Royals could have paid versatile second baseman Whit Merrifield relatively little this year, then given him a series of one-year contracts accompanied by increasing pressure each season.

Instead, they chose to reward him for both his perseverance and play.

The sides agreed Monday to a $16.25 million, four-year contract that covers Merrifield’s years of arbitration eligibility; Merrifield gets $1 million this year, $5 million in 2020, $6.75 million in 2021 and $2.75 million in 2022. The Royals have a $10.5 million option for 2023 with a $750,000 buyout, and there are $2 million in performance bonuses.

“It’ll change my family’s life for the rest of our lives in that regard,” Merrifield said in a news conference at Kauffman Stadium. “It doesn’t really change anything for me on the field. I never started playing this game to be a millionaire. It’s not why I put on cleats. It was to compete.”

The 30-year-old was a late bloomer who didn’t break into the big leagues until 2016, when he was 27 years old. That means he still wouldn’t have been eligible for arbitration until next offseason, and that the Royals could have controlled his rights for several more years.

•The Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to minor-league contracts with five players, including infielder Emilio Bonifacio.

•The Detroit Tigers have hired former outfielder Kirk Gibson as a special assistant to the general manager, and the team says he’ll also remain in his role as a commentator for Fox Sports Detroit.


Bears sign kicker,

may replace Parkey

The Chicago Bears said they signed kicker Redford Jones.

There is wide speculation that the Bears will part with Cody Parkey, who missed 11 kicks in his first season in Chicago. That included a 43-yard attempt, partially blocked, that would have beaten Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs.

Jones played at Tulsa and wasn’t drafted after going 12-for-16 on field-goal attempts and 44-for-45 on extra-point tries in 2017.

Courts: Detroit Lions linebacker Trevor Bates is undergoing a psychological evaluation at a New York City hospital after his weekend arrest on charges accusing him of punching a police officer after failing to pay a taxi fare, his agent said. The evaluation is delaying Bates’ arraignment on charges including assault, resisting arrest and theft of services, authorities said.

Tennis: Maria Sharapova earned her first WTA win in her native Russia in 13 years after beating Daria Gavrilova 6-0, 6-4 in the first round of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy. The win sets up a second-round match against Russian No. 1 Daria Kasatkina.

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