Reese Kaplan -- Daniel Murphy's Farewell Tour?

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?


Tom Brennan said...

I would let Murph go with a big thank you for services rendered. Herrera will do fine, Flores should get better. I'd sign Cespedes (make it happen) and move forward from there.

No one wanted Reyes to go, but he is sliding and has not played to fan's expectation. Time moves on, let's recalibrate.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

I still think that Cespedes is the more intriguing question.

However, with Murphy, I think if they are a team on a tight budget, so that it makes sense to lose Murphy, slide Flores into his old role, and bring up Herrera to play 2B.

And hope like hell the rook can do it.

I want them to pre-emptively sign Cespedes. One very good thing about his unusual contract if that the Mets will know very early if they've got him or not. Everything they do after hinges on that issue, IMO.

Love Murph, btw.

James Preller

Unknown said...

I love Murph - love his work ethic and drive, but his time with the Mets is coming to an end.

Herrera will be a much better player - especially factoring in speed and defense.

Flores is our super utility guy who grabs 300+ ABs around the diamond - besides Flores is a better option at 3B than Murphy.

Also factor that Cecchini will be ready to hit the bigs next year - as will Reynolds, so the Mets clearly have the depth at SS to move Flores to other positions as needed - he is insurance for 2b and 3b.

He is also several million cheaper than Murphy

Unknown said...

Great article though - saying good bye to Murph will be tougher than it was to say good bye to Reyes -- at least for me

Kevin S said...

I'd love to be able to reward Murphy for sticking through the shitty years with the opportunity to play for this club for the next very exciting 5 years but I just don't see how that's possible. The money to retain Murph is better spent elsewhere. I'd rather spend the $10M on Clippard and Kelly Johnson than on Murphy.

I've always been a fan of his but unfortunately, his timing for FA and our timing for serious contention just didn't lineup.

Good luck.

That Adam Smith said...

Considering that next season really is a win now proposition, I'd extend the QO to Murph. It's an overpay, yes, but just a one year commitment. It provides excellent insurance against both DW's and Duda's health, and Herrera's adjustment to the bigs, any or all of which could certainly be an issue, helps keep everyone on the IF fresh all season, provides a professional lefty bat, and you already know that he fits well into what has seemingly become a pretty tight clubhouse. Johnson (and presumably Uribe) goes, Herrera comes up without the pressure of NEEDING to perform right away, and if they're all healthy, everyone gets 400 or so AB's. If he doesn't take the QO, grab the draft pick and move on from there.

Reese Kaplan said...

@James and @Lew -- thanks for the kind words. You can't make room for everyone. Bartolo Colon will be gone, too, and for the most part he's earned his keep while here. He demonstrated to the rest of the staff that placement is every bit as important as velocity. However, he hasn't had the tenure that Murphy has had, so his departure won't be as emotional.

They're, of course, not the only ones likely gone at year's end...Bobby Parnell whose salary can't be cut enough to make him a worthy gamble, Dillon Gee is a non-tender candidate, then you have all of the rentals such as Jerry Blevins, Tyler Clippard, Eric O'Flaherty, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and (hopefully not) Yoenis Cespedes.

Ralph Simon said...

Murphy is not worth 10M a year. The way he plays defense and runs the bases, I don't even think he is worth 8.5M. He has given his heart and soul to this organization, but he lacks common sense when it comes to baseball. Let him go. Mets will hopefully use the money saved on Murphy, Colon and Parnell, to get a good outfielder to play CF if they fail to sign Cespedes, which is likely, since he does not fit the Alderson mold.

Ralph Simon said...

Murphy is not worth 10M a year. The way he plays defense and runs the bases, I don't even think he is worth 8.5M. He has given his heart and soul to this organization, but he lacks common sense when it comes to baseball. Let him go. Mets will hopefully use the money saved on Murphy, Colon and Parnell, to get a good outfielder to play CF if they fail to sign Cespedes, which is likely, since he does not fit the Alderson mold.

Ralph Simon said...

Murphy is not worth 10M a year. The way he plays defense and runs the bases, I don't even think he is worth 8.5M. He has given his heart and soul to this organization, but he lacks common sense when it comes to baseball. Let him go. Mets will hopefully use the money saved on Murphy, Colon and Parnell, to get a good outfielder to play CF if they fail to sign Cespedes, which is likely, since he does not fit the Alderson mold.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the so-called Alderson mold.

I am often tickled that despite Alderson's strong preference for players with plate discipline, that when he needed to go out and get some hitters to help take the team over the top, he grabbed Cespedes and Uribe.

It obviously takes all kinds.

Even Sandy would admit that there isn't a mold, and that it would be foolish to be a slave to an image of an ideal hitter.

Flores doesn't walk enough. D'Arnaud doesn't walk enough. Murphy doesn't walk enough. Cespedes doesn't walk enough. But even so, SA still made room for them on the team.

Fielding a roster in an imperfect science.

James Preller

Robb said...

id QO murphy, the 4 mm for parnell will go to Reed. you can only go down 15% or something and saves are a big factor in arbitration. the 5 mm from gee can go anywhere, hopefully clippard, which combined with the 8 from murphy gets you probably plus 3 which will go to arb raises and duda. i think murphy get 4 years 12-13 mm per. hes a 290 hitting with 15-20 hr power who can play 3 infield positions. dodgers, rangers, royals, a's tampa bay all make tons of sense. giants too. he'll be well sought after.

bgreg98180 said...

For what reason are those that are pushing Flores to utility while sliding Herrera into the full time 2b role basing their decision on?

Flores has done nothing at 2b to justify demoting him to a backup/utility role (even if it is super-utility).

And Herrera has done nothing (especially at the major league level) to push Flores out of the way.

Just because you may be able to do other people's jobs in an office is not good enough reason to demote you to a temp role instead of a full time employee.
Especially if the replacement has not out performed you yet and making roughly the same amount of money.

Anonymous said...

Here's my thinking, Bob Gregory, though I could be wrong.

First: I just believe in minor league production as a fair indicator of MLB success. That is, I'm inclined to think that Herrera will not only be good, but that he can be special. There are times when you simply have to make room for upcoming talent, even before they have proven anything. I also like that Herrera has some speed and could, potentially, be a table-setter in the lineup.

Secondly: Wilmer is uniquely suited to the super sub role -- I think he should learn how to play 1B, too -- and there's every reason to believe he can get 400 ABs. Herrera can't do that. This is an issue for me of maximizing value; I think you get the most out of both players if it works out this way.

Third: These definitions are fluid. If Herrera stumbles badly, Flores can play more regularly at 2B. He can win the job outright. That said, I think Herrera needs to get a real opportunity to success, meaning that you have to allow him to struggle for a while, too. I don't think he's had that chance yet to make the adjustments and succeed. It's a tricky balancing act, much in the way the organization allowed Wilmer to sink-or-swim at SS.

Look, I hear you, and I think you make a sound argument. I really like Wilmer, who I think could hit .300 with 15 HRs next season. But I also have faith in Herrera and want to get the most value out of that ballplayer. This team lacks speed. Keeping him down or trading him away on the cheap will not do that.

James Preller

Robb said...

to james point and well said.

its more about putting the team out there with the most potential. If we had a Andrelton simmons this wouldnt be a question. but my goal with flores is to get his bat in there as much as possible while fielding as best a team as possible. so you move him around as he has the best position flexibility. he can play second, he's not the greatest ss but he hits a whole lot better then tejada. Herrera could be an all star at second hitting as well as flores and playing better defense but he's untested and wright is going to need some days off at third. One of the reasons murphy plays everyday is because he can play 3 infield positions. it would be the same mostly with flores. id rather have him/herrera, him/tejada then tejada/herrera most days.

Mack's Mets © 2012