The Daniel Murphy conundrum

By Michael Lecolant

Despite the flurry of offseason activity, there appears to be no market for the Mets’ lone all-star of 2014, and most consistent hitter over their last three seasons.  So far, that is the message being sent by the rest of baseball for a second consecutive offseason.

Beyond the friendly confines of Queens, Daniel Murphy is ultimately viewed as having below average skills at second base, but swings an above average bat for the position albeit with little power.  Trading Daniel Murphy last offseason would have given a receiving team two seasons of cost control, but that added feature apparently didn’t make Murphy any more attractive for prospective buyers.

Aug 23, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) at bat in the ninth inning of the game against the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

That said, Sandy Alderson also may have over-valued Murphy’s worth during the process. Last March, Alderson reportedly asked the Orioles for pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, which wasn’t received very well in Baltimore.

There were also mid-summer rumors that the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Francisco Giants were mildly interested. The Washington Nationals even placed a call asking about Murphy.  Nothing ever developed from those inquiries, and Murphy survived the July trade deadline.

Towards the end of the season, Alderson continued making no secret about his intention to trade Murphy. By November, however, he changed his tune and expressed a reluctance to move him.

Despite Alderson’s outward change of heart, internally the Mets remain motivated sellers because Murphy is outgrowing their budget. They’ll be able to retain Murphy, who is in the final year of arbitration eligibility, for roughly $8 million this coming season.

Of course, the discount ends there. Murphy’s approaching free agency will surely balloon his future yearly salaries into the double digit millions, and Alderson has flatly stated the Mets will have no plans to engage in extension talks to keep Murphy in a Mets uniform beyond 2015.

Despite Alderson’s previous successes in trading Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey, I think any team interested in Daniel Murphy will just wait the Mets out on this one. Or, Alderson can still pursue a trade, but with much lowered expectations.

The flip side to all this is the Mets still need Daniel Murphy if they intend on contending in 2015, after which, they seem very willing to let him walk away.

The final question then becomes, does Alderson make him a qualifying offer (in order to obtain a compensatory draft pick)? That’s a risk many believe ownership can not yet afford.  The qualifying offer for this year’s free agent class was $15.3 million.

Qualifying offers are established by averaging baseball’s top 125 salaries from the previous year. Regardless of team/player, all qualifying offers are equal, and all are for one year. By accepting a potential qualifying offer, Murphy would secure a considerable raise for 2016, and get to revisit free agency in 2017.

The Mets are not necessarily pressed to make Murphy an offer. They have a few emerging options at second base in Dilson Herrera and maybe Matt Reynolds. Pending a resolution at shortstop, Wilmer Flores is a potential option as well. Therefore, the future of second base doesn’t bother me much. Letting Daniel Murphy just walk away, though, rubs me the wrong way.

I guess much will depend on the Mets’ record and their position in the standings as the trade deadline approaches, as to whether Murphy ultimately gets traded.  If the Mets are stumbling into the deadline, then I’d like to see something get done.

This is quite a conundrum when you consider Daniel Murphy’s popularity among Mets fans – that he should be reduced to such a potentially inconsequential end as a draft pick, if that.

Say it isn’t so.