Mets trade rumors: The case for trading Daniel Murphy

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Murphy has been one of the few bright spots on some bad Met teams the last couple of years. Through a great deal of hard work, Murphy has become a solid second baseman, and his hard-nosed approach to the game has earned him a place in the hearts of many Met fans. While all this is understandable, I feel that some have lost sight of what Murphy really is, instead spouting off hogwash about how we can’t lose a hitter who "knows how to hit at Citi" whilst lobbying for an extension. Yet if we look objectively at what Murphy is and what he will give us in terms of production, a trade looks more and more appealing.

We all know what Murphy gives you defensively at second base. He’ll make some spectacular plays one day, leave you scratching your head the next, and in general, show mediocre range. All of this adds up to below-average marks from both UZR (career -6.0 UZR/150) and DRS (career -11 Rdrs/yr). These values will likely decline as he ages, but it’s not outlandish to believe that Murphy can be at least passable at second base for the next three to four years. Just don’t expect any additional value in this department. Murphy’s defensive limitations ultimately mean his value with his bat will have to supply the majority of his overall value.

To project Murphy’s offensive contributions, let’s look at some similar players. Baseball Reference offers a great tool providing comparable players based on offensive statistics. The table below shows eight of the 10 most comparable hitters to Daniel Murphy through his age-28 season. I’ve removed numbers four (Bill Barrett) and five (Billy Werber) as they both played in the early 20th century, a completely different era of baseball. The average is weighted by PAs (not shown due to space).

wRC+ 28 29 30 31 32 33 34
Jeff Cirillo 112 128 121 99 95 74 53
Martin Prado 109 117 104 90
David Dejesus 103 116 105 127 96 104 103
Kevin Seitzer 120 96 99 102 114 115 123
Todd Walker 94 104 98 107 114 96 52
Chris Johnson 100 126 88
Jim Davenport 92 121 80 77 89 87 115
Rich Rollins 105 87 92 67 65
Average 105.2 114.4 100.4 98.4 100.0 96.2 103.2
Daniel Murphy 107 112

Murphy’s numbers are remarkably similar. Through age 28, he’s within two points of the average wRC+, and his age-29 season is within 3 points. Two data points hardly indicate a direct correlation, but the subsequent production for the field of comparable players is probably a decent projection for Murphy going forward.

Interestingly enough, these values are very similar to the Oliver projections for Murphy. Oliver predicts a 102 wRC+ for Murphy next year before he dips below 100 and posts marks of 97, 95, and 92 for his age-31 to age-33 seasons. I don’t love Oliver projections, but in this case they do compare favorably to the actual production of players similar to Murphy. In total, both systems predict that Murphy will be a league-average hitter next year before declining to below-average levels as he moves into his 30s.

These data tell us that Murphy is not going to be an above-average hitter relative to the rest of the league. Of course, Murphy plays second base, so perhaps this lesser version of Murphy would still be an asset. Alas, this does not appear to be the case. Using Oliver as a WAR calculator, Murphy projects to be worth slightly less than 2 wins next season with a very favorable defensive score of –0.7. Given that Murphy’s career-high defensive mark is –0.3 this season in a small sample, which is far better than his career mark, expecting a –0.7 defensive value until Murphy’s age-33 season is not realistic. With this in mind, Murphy projects more as a 1-win player by the time he’s 31, if not sooner.

However, these projections are dealing with the future, and right now Murphy is on pace for a 3.0–3.5 WAR season at second base with a 112 wRC+ (that number incorporating his most recent slump). Murphy’s left-handed bat could very easily be an asset for a contending team with a hole at second base or third base, and there seem to be plenty of potential suitors for his services; the Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Giants all are getting bad performances from their current second basemen. Though reported interest has been limited to date, things could very easily heat up as we come down to the trading deadline. Murphy’s value is as high as it’s ever going to be, and there is an appreciable market for his services—there probably will never be a better time to trade Murphy.

This has all been without any mention of the Mets' organizational depth at second base. I am not a fan of Wilmer Flores—his high-contact, weak-swing approach warps his numbers in Vegas even more than the average hitter. However, he clearly gains little to nothing from remaining in Triple-A any further, and as one of the better prospects in our system, he needs to get a shot at the major league level. With Tejeda playing a (barely) passable shortstop, Flores offers an immediate replacement if Murphy is traded. Matt Reynolds is another short-term option, though he has cooled off in Vegas after a hot start. He projects more as a utility infielder, but giving him a chance to hold down a starting job is probably worthwhile.

Lower in the system, Dilson Herrera has been tearing it up. Even with the obvious BABIP and small sample size caveats, his Double-A numbers are beyond impressive. Hitting .344/.405/.542 with 4 HR and 6 SB in 148 PA, good for a 160 wRC+, Herrera’s stats make him one of the best players in the Eastern League at the tender age of 20, and he certainly looks the part of a future fixture at second base.

Given that Murphy’s value is at a peak and that the Mets have several cost-controlled, MLB-ready replacements with arguably greater upside, extending Murphy would seem a mistake. Murphy probably commands a 3-4 year deal at $30-40 million this offseason, his own comments about taking less money notwithstanding. With the limited financial resources the Mets have at the moment and our wealth of talent at second base, giving a complementary player like Murphy that kind of money for the decline phase of his career is certainly not worth it.

It’s time to trade Daniel Murphy.

Comments

You make a good argument that it's time to trade Murphy

But then lay an egg when it comes to explaining what to do with the vacancy.

The Mets are on the cusp of contention – you don’t address how the Mets can replace the production, or when. Do you believe in Flores? Tell me!! Reynolds is not an option (or, you don’t say why he is) and Dilson is too far away.

I’m ready to be convinced — you almost had me convinced! Finish me off.

I believe Brian just asked for a happy ending

shocked and appalled I am!

So close! ... Unfortunately, he left.

=(

do you guys need some time alone?

The vacancy isn't all that important past 2015

So I basically agree with your concern.

I don’t see why we have to act on Murphy now — be it trade or extend. If we wait, sure, we lose some value long term (or perhaps short term) but honestly, that’s not a big deal.

There’s a pretty good chance that, with Murph at 2B and with improvements at SS and LF, we can make a real run next year. And there’s also a pretty good chance that we can make those improvements. If that happens, great! We’re winning. If not, oh well, trade Murph a year from now.

You hit the nail on the head

Exactly

Trading Murphy doesn’t make sense for a team planning on contending in 2015, which the Mets are.

I'm not sure how to feel about this response.

Scared? Aroused?

I jest of course. I think Herrera is a long term fixture at the position by 2016. Floreswill provide equal or better value to Murphy (who really doesn’t perfect to be that great) wIth consistent playing time in 2015 in my eyes.

But how can you realistically expect Flores to provide equal or better value to Murphy?

Murphy has been an average to above average 2B for the past two years, expecting Flores to produce equal value to that is extremely optimistic. Just like in your trading for Tulo article you’re severely overrating prospects and expecting arguably the best case outcome when in most cases with prospects they end up more towards the pessimistic side of their projections.

The Mets are a team that going into 2015 actually can compete, creating another hole and hoping and praying Flores can fill in adequately is not a good move for a team that is trying to contend, especially one that is in such need for offense which Murphy provides.

No, I think you're overvaluing Murphy.

His offense is not anything special. His defense is poor. He’s basically a 2 WAR player having a career year. He’s not the kind of player that ages well. Would he provide a bit more value than Flores? Perhaps. But Flores can put up 1 WAR pretty easily, and certainly has the upside for more.

In 3 of his last 4 years

he’s been at 2.6 WAR and above while also being an above average stick. I’m not sure how confident we should be on Flores to post an above average hitting season since you know, he hasn’t done that yet.

His offense for a middle infielder is well above average.

The defense isn’t good but neither is Flores and I don’t know how you can reasonably expect any prospect to hit as good as Murphy has in what would basically be his rookie year. Again how can you say he can produce 1 WAR pretty easily? I’ve seen countless prospects more highly touted than Flores not be able to even produce 1 WAR and become replacement level or even below replacement level players. Penciling in any prospect to give a certain amount of production is not wise, especially for a team that not only can compete next year but a team that needs to compete.

Career year?

Murphy had 190+ hits last season on a very poor team.

This year appears a continuation of that.

He is a proven major league hitter who plays a MI position. In other words, he’s a proven positive on a team with promise, but few accomplishments. He’s 29. I’d have no issue considering him part of a core and signing him to 3 years, as opposed to trusting that a AA or even a AAA player could be promoted and provide similar production. At some point, the idea is winning at the big league level.

Murphy had 188 hits

and never walked. He also barely plays a MI position.

Dillon

Other teams bring up promising AA players. Why not give Dilson a chance. Also, why not play Flores everyday. Duda is an example of how it screws up a player to yank him around. Let’s see what he can do. Tejada certainly is not a major league shortstop.

DISAGREE

You can’t have a team entirely made of prospects and long shots. Murphy is a proven quality MLB hitter at a position that is extremely scarce. There is not a AAA player beating down the door to take his spot. Trading away Murphy would put off the Mets finally being an competitive team at least 2 seasons. Any money saved from not extending or paying arbitration would not improve the team at all. We have seen this. All it would improve would be the owners bank accounts.

Murphy is a decent ML hitter

standing at 2B. He is not a quality fielding 2B.

He makes some highlight worthy plays and

I’d rather have a bat out there than someone we don’t know can hit on a team that needs hitters. Herrera’s at least a year out.

I agree

but people need to stop saying that Murphy is a 2B, like that holds water to his value. He is barely average, if that.

Good post...

Personally, I think they should eat the raise he’ll get for next season, tender him in the offseason 2015, and let him walk if he gets a better offer. I would not extend him, but I would keep him next year so as not to create a hole if Flores can’t hit and Reynolds/Herrera are not ready.

The more I think about it, this makes the most sense if they’re going to be viable contenders for the playoffs next season, while still having flexibility after 2015. Plus, if he doesn’t accept a tender, the Mets get a comp pick in 2016.

Of course, if someone presents an offer commiserate with his current ability and status as an all star 2b, than they should make the trade.

No-one is going to meet Sandy's assnine asking price

I wouldn't be too sure about that

Every time Alderson has wanted to trade a veteran for prospects, he’s shot for the moon, and despite hearing ridicule over his price, ended up getting what he wanted. (See: Beltran, Dickey, Byrd/Buck)

Yeah, but maybe we can get his asseight asking price.

I hereby ban you from this site

No, can't disagree more

Trading the guy who has been probably our best hitter this year, when we need offense desperately doesn’t sound like a good idea. Especially when Wilmer Flores has shown literally nothing offensively.

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