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What the Mets should do with Daniel Murphy, Part 2

The second part of a two part series examining whether the New York Mets should extend or trade second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Daniel Murphy jumping. Why? Nobody knows.
Daniel Murphy jumping. Why? Nobody knows.
Marc Serota

The first part of this two-part series detailed a possible extension scenario for Daniel Murphy. Extending him through his final two arbitration and first two free agent seasons would make some sense for the New York Mets, but the organization should simultaneously attempt to generate trade interest for the 28-year-old's services, too.

The Mets' farm system is relatively weak in terms of natural second basemen (i.e. Daniel Muno and Branden Kaupe), but the front office has prudently pushed offense-first Wilmer Flores to learn the position at Triple-A this season.

The 21-year-old infielder played 24 games at second base in 2012, and has already logged another 18 at the position so far in 2013. While Flores might never become a plus defender—or even a league average one—his bat could make up for it. At least that's what the Mets are banking on.

Between Advanced-A and Double-A last season, Flores smacked 18 home runs with a .180 ISO. With a far higher offensive ceiling than Murphy, it wouldn't be too much of a pity if Flores never cuts a twenty-four minute defensive highlight video starring Cookie Rojas. Assuming Flores will eventually improve his current .273/.323/.398 line, expect Murphy to become expendable by mid-season.

If made available, both the Colorado Rockies and Baltimore Orioles would make for logical destinations for Murphy. The Rockies are off to a surprising 16-11 to start the season, but have received a lackluster performance by sophomore second baseman Josh Rutledge (58 OPS+ from 93 OPS+ in 2012). Murphy could supplant Rutledge in the interim, and eventually transition into the super utility option he is perhaps destined to be.

In the event the Rockies are not buyers at the deadline, it's more likely the Orioles will be. Ryan Flaherty has received the bulk of the starts at second base, as Brian Roberts once again could not stay healthy. But Flaherty has been atrocious at the plate, posting a 2006 Anderson-Hernandez-esque 11 OPS+ over 58 plate appearances. Alex Casilla has been slightly better, hitting to the tune of a 43 OPS+, but neither infielder is worthy of a starting gig—and barely a back-up one, for that matter. With "prospect" Jonathan Schoop drowning at Triple-A (.218/.307/.321 line), the "it's now or never" Orioles are arguably the best fit for Murphy.

It would be wishful thinking to expect an organization's top five prospect in return for Murphy, but a top ten or fifteen prospect should be in the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a good, parallel trade comparison in the past few years. Most recently, the Colorado Rockies were only able to pluck Charlie Culberson for 36-year-old Marco Scutaro (career 94 OPS+) at the trade deadline last season. Scutaro then went on to post a 144 OPS+ for the World Series winning San Francisco Giants. Similarly, at the 2011 deadline, the Athletics gave away 34-year-old Mark Ellis to the Rockies for Eliezer Mesa and Bruce Billings, who have both done little-to-nothing in the A's system.

Murphy, being eight and six years Scutaro and Ellis's junior, respectively, has quite a bit more value than the pair of veterans. And while the Mets might yearn for a haul like the Cleveland Indians luckily netted in 2009, when they dealt 35 year-old Mark DeRosa (who owned a then-career 97 OPS+) for uber relief prospect Chris Perez, Murph's two years of team control are simply not worth the price of a highly touted prospect. But perhaps if the Mets can acquire a prospect somewhere in between the ilk of Culberson and Perez, it would do the organization a better service than inking Murph to a fair market extension.