Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:00 AM
With all of the attention paid to the question of whether or not to make the investment in Yoenis Cespedes at the end of the season, a perhaps more intriguing question concerns one Daniel Thomas Murphy. He's been a Met since making his debut during the 2008 season. How long ago was that? The team featured Carlos Delgado, Brian Schneider, Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Fernando Tatis and Ryan Church!
During his Mets tenure he's been asked to play 1B, 2B and LF due to the presence of David Wright at his natural position of 3B. As they saying goes, as a fielder he's a pretty good hitter. He's not an embarrassment out there at any position (except perhaps LF), but he's not especially graceful either. What bothers people more than the physical errors he makes are the mental errors. He's been known to throw to the wrong base, fail to cover, and not position himself properly to receive throws from the outfield.
On the basepaths he's raised gaffes to an art form. It's almost surrealistic at times watching him seemingly forget things that are drilled into Little Leaguers.
How did he last so long, given these challenges? He's a model of consistency with the bat. For his career he's a .289 hitter. To put that in perspective, similar players who have moved around the diamond such and made a good living such as Ben Zobrist (.266) and Kelly Johnson (.251) are not quite in the same model of productivity.
Murphy's best year was in 2013 when he hit .286 with 13 HRs, 78 RBIs and 23 SBs while playing nearly every game at 2B. A good parallel for his career would appear to be Martin Prado, a career .290 hitter whose best season of 2013 coincided with Murphy's standout year – .282, 14 HRs, 82 RBIs and 3 SBs while playing all over the place for the Diamondbacks.
I bring up Prado because his comps are probably a good yardstick of what Murphy stands to earn during his pending free agency. At age 30 Prado signed a 3 year/$33 million contract. The $10-$11 million per season rate is probably where Murphy will wind up as well.
Now at first glance you'd think the Mets should simply let him walk away. After all, David Wright is back, Wilmer Flores is well on his way to a solid supersub season and Dilson Herrera is crushing the ball in AAA. Do they need Murphy next season?
In a word, yes. They do need him. David Wright's health will remain a question mark until proven otherwise. Dilson Herrera needs to show what he can do at the Major League level and Wilmer Flores is the new Murphy – a man without a position.
Need and afford are unfortunately sometimes mutually exclusive. Some people advocate giving Daniel Murphy a qualifying offer of approximately $15.5 million dollars, gambling that he won't take it, instead seeking the security of a multi-year deal elsewhere. If so, then you get back the draft pick you lost by preemptively signing Michael Cuddyer.
However, what if he and his agent say to themselves, “Wait, I can nearly double my salary for a year and then hit free agency again at just age 31?” In that case the Mets have themselves a very expensive man without a position to play. That's a lot of money to pay for insurance when lower cost alternatives (like current rentals Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe) or players of that ilk could be more prudent investments.
Of course, the other side of that conundrum is the fact that salary usually dictates playing time. How many people think that a $15.5 million Murphy would collect splinters next to Anthony Recker on the bench?
Consequently, the Mets are on the horns of a dilemma. Do they simply pay up, hoping to get Murphy for 3 or more years at a reduced annual price tag similar to what Prado commanded in his age 30 season? Do they make a QO, fully aware that it's a calculated risk that could prove to be very expensive. Or do they wish him well and let him walk away without any compensation whatsoever?
I'm hoping the Mets go far into the post season, get the extra money that accompanies the playoffs and at the turnstiles. However, I think it would be a foolish investment where the Mets have depth. Going into next season they could use Wilmer Flores at 2B with Dilson Herrera in the wings at AAA, or they could revisit Flores at SS where he's looked much more comfortable in the 2nd half of the season. Then the money saved could be spent on an offer for a Yoenis Cespedes and the expensive bench piece is Juan Lagares at 1/3 the cost of what Murphy would be.
What do you all think?