Even as the Mets claw for playoff contention, most fans would love to rewind back to the simpler times of March, when Daniel Murphy's name came up as trade bait rather than their last best hope to save a flagging lineup.
After missing most of June with quad tightness, the 30-year-old pending free agent returned on Tuesday night. Sliding over to third base, his original position blocked by David Wright, he went 1-for-4 with a double during the Mets' 1-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Murphy returns to a club ranking 28th in wOBA, ahead of only the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies. During June, the Mets hit .227/.290/.358, scoring three runs per game. Desperate for any signs of offensive life, a solid, perhaps under-appreciated hitter now carries a much heavier burden.
Before Tuesday night's loss, manager Terry Collins gushed over Murphy's return, saying he "can't come back at a better time."
"This guy made the All-Star team last year. It's nice to have an All-Star back in the middle of your lineup. So I think it will help Cuddy, I think it will help Lucas. Dan's used to having been put in those positions before."
Murphy is an above-average all-around infielder, especially when viewed as a second baseman. Despite a sluggish start, his .333 on-base percentage and 108 wRC+ are identical to his career rates. He's a contact hitter who won't offer more than gap power, and that's certainly a huge upgrade from Eric Campbell.
Yet when an offense's revival revolves around Daniel Murphy, the lineup has issues. Yes, he made the All-Star team, but Collins left out the part about Murphy serving as the team's lone representative, a token selection to meet MLB rules. Even if he earned the spot on his own merits, he hit .280/.313/.384 after the Midsummer Classic.
The Mets will take any help they can get at the plate, but if they're counting on Murphy to fix one of the league's worst lineups, it's going to be a very long summer.