With all signs pointing to little to no payroll increase for the 2013 season and Alderson hinting that the team will likely try to improve through trades this offseason I decided to look at some of the Mets tradeable assets. This is part of a series I am trying to do one per week until I run out of options or get bored. I have several players in mind, but if anyone has a suggestion for a player they would like me to review post it in the comments. Throughout the process I am trying to stay objective in that I don't necessarily think the Mets should trade someone just because they have value. I mainly want to try to get an idea of what each players value is to the future of the Mets or to some other team.
Daniel Murphy has been a solid utility man playing the 3, 4, and 5 positions for the Mets over parts of the past four seasons. His defense has been at best average wherever he plays and typically not a complete disaster like my last subject Duda is in the outfield (except when Murph himself had played in the outfield). He should probably not be anyone's first choice as a starting infielder (too little power for 1B, not enough defense for 2B/3B), but in a league where infield position players that can hit above average is scarce, Murphy has found his niche and could have a decent Major League career as a good role player if he can keep it up. Also like Duda, Murphy still has three years of team control left meaning he will be a relatively cheap option for some teams.
Below are Murphy's career stats and the stats for each position he might play going back the past two seasons. Stats courtesy of Fangraphs.
Career 291/339/428, 767 OPS, .137 ISO, 12.5 K%, 6.7 BB%, .53 BB/K
106 wRC+, 6.9 fWAR, 1648 PA, 25 HR
2B 253/316/375 690 OPS .122 ISO 16.9 K% 7.7 BB% .46 BB/K
3B 258/320/410 730 OPS .151 ISO 18.7 K% 7.8 BB% .42 BB/K
1B 256/328/438 766 OPS .182 ISO 20.5 K% 9.1 BB% .45 BB/K
2B 255/316/378 694 OPS .122 ISO 15.9 K% 7.2 BB% .45 BB/K
3B 254/314/391 705 OPS .137 ISO 17.2 K% 7.5 BB% .44 BB/K
1B 263/338/439 778 OPS .177 ISO 19.3 K% 9.7 BB% .50 BB/K
Murphy's career stats show us that he is above average for a 2B/3B. The isolated power looks a little low for an everyday 3B, and is certainly too low for an everyday 1B, but we know that Murphy will hit plenty of doubles and in a good year he can get double digit homers. Power is not everything though, and Murphy will hit for a high average and limit his strikeouts. That can look pretty good when some teams have infielders hitting in the .220s-.230s. Also, while Murphy's defense is never going to be a strong point, he has proven this year that he can play 2B without getting injured and without completely embarrasing himself. His positional flexibility definitely broadens the number of potential trade partners if not adds to his value.
The Mets do not have a clear internal option to replace Murphy at 2B, and his bat would definitely be missed in the lineup. The two most practical replacements for him would be Jordany Valdespin who is not quite a Major League hitter yet, and Ronny Cedeno who the Mets would have a decent shot at extending if they could offer him a starting job. Either one of these options should improve the defense at 2B, and keeping Cedeno around would ensure that we have a backup SS still on the roster. It would certainly be a big risk to bet on Cedeno maintaining his production from this year (which is way above his career norms) or hoping Valdespin can learn some plate discipline. There is however the possibility that Wilmer Flores forces his way to the big leauges next year in which case moving Murphy would allow him a defensive position to play everyday. In any case Murphy has some value to provide the 2013 Mets in solidifying the 2B position, but we might not need him after next year and if he could help bring back a good outfield bat that might be more valuable in the long run.
Possible teams to trade with:
As in the last review I won't make any actual trade proposals here, it's not AAOP season yet, but here are some teams that Murphy would make sense for as either an upgrade at some position or as a replacement for a FA.
Toronto: Omar Vizquel is going to retire and Kelly Johnson will be a FA. Johnson has more power than Murphy, but Murphy is probably a more reliable hitter after the past couple of seasons. The Blue Jays might see Murphy as a cheap upgrade over Johnson, or they could also use Murphy at third which would keep Edwin Encarnacion in the 1B/DH spot and limit Adam Lind's AB's. Murphy's flexibility would play well here.
Minnesota: The Twins infield contains the offensive black hole of Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, and something called a Trevor Plouffe. They are going to need offense from somewhere other than Catcher, DH, First Base, and Josh Willingham next year.
Oakland: Oaklands best option this year at third base is Brandon Inge which is not saying much. Murphy is a much better hitter, but Inge seems to excel on defense. The A's also have some younger infield guys who don't look like much from their stats this year. Oakland could be looking for infield help on the cheap and after their trades with Arizona and Washington last year they have a pretty deep farm system to pick through.
Miami: Hey, look who just traded all of their stars away again. I'm sure Jose Reyes wouldn't mind having a familiar face around now that all of his new friends just got sent to other teams. Hopefully the Marlins realize he's much much better than Donnie Murphy though.
The Mets' have been looking for a steady second baseman forever, but I don't know if Murphy is the answer to that riddle in the long term. There are some internal options and some possible FA which might be able to replace his value by improving the infield defense, but it would be hard to replace Murph's bat. It's his bat though that could make him a valuable trade chip to fill some of the other holes on the Mets. As always the trade has to look good for both teams, and it might be hard for the Mets to trade him this offseason, but he does have some value now. It might be more prudent to wait until midseason next year to see if Murphy has a stronger offensive year, and if either Valdespin or Flores looks ready to play a bigger role on the team.