New York Mets News

Daniel Murphy and the Mets: What’s next?

By Rich Sparago

As of this writing, the Mets are two games short of the statistical halfway point of the season, and their record stands at 36-43. Though they have not made anyone forget the prowess of the 1986 club, the Mets find themselves on the bubble of contention. They stand just 5.5 games behind the division-leading Washington Nationals, and 6.5 games out the second wild card spot. Soon the Mets will have to decide if they’re buyers or sellers at the trading deadline. One decision they’ll have to make surrounds their second baseman, Daniel Murphy.

Jun 19, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) reacts after being forced out at second base during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Murphy’s trade-or-keep status may be somewhat a function of where the Mets are in the standings as we get closer to July 31st, but it also may come down to an individual value decision. Looking at Murphy’s statistics, he’s currently batting .296, with a .349 on-base percentage and a .414 slugging percentage. He has 6 home runs, 30 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. His wRC+ is 117, indicating a strong offensive contribution. Murphy is recognized as a serviceable, though not good, defender at second base.

Recently, reports have surfaced that the Giants and Blue Jays have inquired about Murphy. Trade speculation was fueled by a recent report from ESPN’s Adam Rubin that Terry Collins told Wilmer Flores to get work in Triple A at both second base and shortstop, in case something should happen. Essentially, there a quite a few variables in the Murphy equation, but let’s take a look at both sides of the trading argument.

The argument to keep Murphy

Murphy is possibly the best natural hitter the Mets have. He’s not as prone to the strikeout as are David Wright and Curtis Granderson. Murphy is a steady performer, and can be relied upon for roughly a .290 average each year, with approximately 10 home runs (he is a .291 career hitter with 45 home runs over 5 full seasons’ worth of at-bats). Trading Murphy would create a large offensive gap, on a team already parched for offense. Internal candidates to replace Murphy would likely be Wilmer Flores and Eric Young, Jr., neither of whom project to replace Murphy’s offensive production.

The argument to trade Murphy

While Murphy is a solid offensive player, he fundamentally lacks in other aspects of the game. His UZR in 2014 is -0.1, better than his -4.9 in 2013, though still not close to stellar. On the bases, Murphy will steal with some regularity, but he is prone to base running mistakes that always seem profound and ill-timed. So, the question to ask is, how much of his offense is negated by the other dimensions of his game? Then there’s the big factor, money. Murphy is set to earn about $9 million in his last year of arbitration after this season. Current thinking is that a long-term deal with Murphy after that will be in the neighborhood of $12 million per year. Is he worth that much to the Mets?

Sandly Alderson and company clearly value power, and that seems to be the attribute on which they’re most willing to spend (Granderson’s $60 million deal). Alderson has not doled out many lucrative deals, and to me, it does not seem likely that he will do so for Murphy. In addition to not being a power hitter, Murphy seems less inclined to adopt the orgnaization’s philosophy of patience at the plate. It does not seem to add up to a long-term relationship between Murphy and the Mets.

If the above is the case, Alderson may have to make a tough decision, either this summer or after the season, and part ways with Murphy. Daniel could likely net a decent return (he may in fact be the team’s most desirable trading asset). However, were Murphy to be traded, the public backlash would likely be profound, as Murphy is a popular player, and many may assume his departure was purely financially driven. Some of the repercussions could be ameliorated by the players returned to the Mets, but that remains to be seen.

Let us know what you would do with Murphy, and what you think the Mets will do with their second baseman in the coming weeks or months.