The New York Mets have an interesting decision on the horizon regarding their 2014 All-Star second baseman, Daniel Murphy. Murphy is set to become a free agent after the 2015 season and is poised to receive a significant increase in salary. This has led many baseball experts and fans to debate whether the Mets should attempt to trade or re-sign him. Murphy is an interesting player to assess because he has been a solid hitter, but his defense is inconsistent, at best. There are currently three key questions that will factor into the decision to either re-sign or trade Murphy.
First, if the Mets do trade Murphy, what can they get in return? During a recent online chat, ESPN.com’s Dave Schoenfield was asked that exact question. He believes that the Mets could get “a grade B and grade C prospect.” According to Schoenfield, this is because Murphy is “not a star.” If that is true, Murphy will likely stay put. Sandy Alderson has a track record of being very patient with trades, often being hesitant to simply give players away. With this in mind, it is doubtful that he would pull the trigger on such a trade.
Here is another question to consider: If the Mets do trade Murphy, who will they find to replace him? The free agent classes of 2015 and 2016 are not very impressive. There are seemingly two internal candidates, Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera. Flores has played in 55 major league games, and has struggled so far, compiling a slash line of .216/.247/.292. He is only 22 years old, so there is a chance he could turn it around. He also has some defensive issues, most notably limited range at second base.
Herrera, meanwhile, is currently crushing the ball with the Double-A Binghamton Mets. He has a slash line of .345/.407/.570 in 35 games. He definitely seems like he could be a long-term starter for the Mets at second base, but he is only 20 years old, and is at least one year away from contributing in the majors. Herrera appears to be the best internal option should the Mets decide to trade Murphy.
The third question is particularly relevant to the Mets’ financial situation: What would it cost to re-sign Murphy? Many baseball experts have speculated that it would cost about three or four years, at approximately $11 million per year. That sounds like a fair amount. The Mets have only three other players locked up for multiple years: Wright, Niese, and Granderson. With the Mets’ current financial issues, however, a contract like that could prevent the Mets from signing other free agents or locking up their own young players.
With these questions in mind, let’s evaluate Daniel Murphy’s career statistics for the purpose of forming an opinion as to whether or not the Mets should trade him.
1. He is a hitting machine.
Since 2012, Murphy has 481 hits (seventh most in MLB), 108 doubles (third most in MLB), and 339 singles (fourth most in MLB). He fits well in the second slot of the Mets’ lineup, as he is capable of spraying the ball all over the field.
2. He can hit left-handed pitchers.
Murphy has hit .282 against left-handed pitchers throughout his career.
3. He hits well at Citi Field.
It has been well documented that some hitters have struggled at Citi Field since it opened in 2009. Murphy is clearly not one of those hitters. He is a career .292/.333/.423 hitter at Citi Field.
4. He is durable.
Since 2012, Murphy has played in 420 games (seventh most in MLB). He is a scrappy player who wants to be in the lineup every day.
5. When he hits, the Mets win.
Murphy has played in 343 games that the Mets have won. In those games, he has a slash line of .331/373/.491, with 429 hits, 29 home runs, and 220 RBI.
6. He hits in the clutch.
Murphy has a career slash line of .311/.370/.456, with 11 home runs and 252 RBI with RISP. He is even better with two outs and RISP. He has a career slash line of .333/.405/.488, with 5 home runs and 127 RBI in those situations. That is very impressive.
7. The fans love him.
1. He is defensively challenged.
Murphy has committed 44 errors since 2012 (sixth most in MLB). This is the most glaring issue with Murphy’s game. Every ball hit his way seems to be an adventure, and he has booted some of the most routine ground balls.
2. He rarely walks.
Murphy has a career 6.2% walk rate. Clearly, this can’t thrill the current front office of the Mets. He has never walked more than 38 times in a single season.
3. When he does not hit, the Mets lose.
Murphy has played in 390 games that the Mets have lost. In those games, he has a slash line of .253/.298/.359, with 17 home runs and only 91 RBI. These numbers are a stark contrast to his statistics in the games that the Mets have won: .331/.373/.491 with 29 home runs and 220 RBI.
Murphy doesn’t magically make the Mets better, but he provides above-average offense at a position that features very few good hitters around the league.
The Mets should re-sign Daniel Murphy to a three-year contract. He is an undervalued player who is very important to the Mets’ lineup. Murphy obviously has limits as a defender, but if he continues to hit the way he has this year, it will be a solid investment. In addition, it is quite likely that Murphy will continue to improve defensively.
Matt Harvey will be back in 2015, a season that many believe will be the start of great things for the Mets. Having an established, professional hitter such as Murphy in the lineup is an important part of moving forward.