Reese Kaplan -- Daniel Murphy vs. Neil Walker


A friend was recently bemoaning the Mets decision to let Daniel Murphy walk and felt they had a vastly inferior alternative in Neil Walker who promises to be more expensive than the near-MVP candidate of the Washington Nationals.  While I am usually the one who’s quick to criticize the front office, I couldn’t let that opinion go unanswered.

First of all, let’s look at the numbers.  Over a 162 game period Daniel Murphy produces a highly credible 13 HRs, 78 RBIs and .296 batting average while playing extremely questionable defense and executing some head scratching base running plays.  Walker over the same span would provide 20 HRs, 81 RBIs and a .273 batting average while providing superior defense.  Whether you prefer a higher average or more power, it seems they are pretty much a wash.

At the time Daniel Murphy was allowed to walk away the Mets were fixated on the compensatory pick that would come from making him a Qualifying Offer which he declined.  They won this gamble and Murphy found himself making a bit less than what was projected for him by accepting a 3 year $37.5 million contract in DC.

To address that void the Mets shipped disgruntled and superfluous pitcher Jon Niese to Pittsburgh in exchange for free-agent-to-be Neil Walker.  The money was close so he came to the Mets at a net cost of just $1.55 million for the entire year.  Daniel Murphy was coming off a year in which he earned $8 million, thus resulting in a payroll savings of $6.45 million and a supplemental draft pick.

The end result was a 2016 season in which Neil Walker provided 23 HRs and 55 RBIs in just 103 games.  Of course, the season ended early as a result of surgery, but he was on pace to get 30 HRs by year’s end.  Had he finished with that total most of the Daniel Murphy supporters would be a lot less vocal.

Now Murphy’s season for the Nationals was one for the ages.  He batted an incredible .347 with 25 Hrs and 104 RBIs.  The batting average is likely to return to earth somewhat as he’d only been a .289 hitter prior to last season, but it’s possible the run production will remain the same now that he has an RBI position in the order and some decent bats around him for protection.

Right now the rumor is that the Mets are exploring a $40 million plus contract for Walker with the stipulation he would spread this year’s $17.2 million lost QO bet over the term of the deal to reduce the payroll hit overall in 2017.  For those folks keeping score at home, that’s more money for what people think is a lesser player.

However, the answer is, as usual, not nearly as simple as it would appear to be on the surface.  Obviously the Mets extended the QO in the attempt to hedge their bets against a Yoenis Cespedes departure and David Wright’s ongoing health issues.  The latter is now the rationale behind these contract extension talks.  Should Wright be forced to retire, they need someone capable of manning 3B and providing Wright’s power.

This situation may never come to fruition, of course, because reports abound that talks have hit what’s been called a terminal roadblock.  If so, then as opined last week, the Mets may have to consider what’s best to do with Walker who may indeed want to test the free agent market if he proves himself healthy.  Towards that end the Mets may find themselves facing the very same dilemma at the end of 2017 as they did at the end of 2016 and have to provide an even more expensive QO or have him walk away for nothing.

If the latter happens, it’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world.  They will have paid Walker $28 million for two seasons of credible work and rid themselves of Jon Niese in the process (whose only work option is a minor league deal alongside castoff Ruben Tejada with the Yankees).  Next season should have Asdrubal Cabrera on one side Amed Rosario at shortstop and there are a myriad of options for the other.

Who do you think will have the better 2017 – Daniel Murphy or Neil Walker?  Do remember that Walker is both allegedly healthy for the first time in years AND is playing for his free agent future. Personally I think they'll be a lot closer than many would suspect.


Thomas Brennan said...

I think Murphy will have a better year if both are equally healthy. I think he found the "on" switch in late 2015 and this past season is closer to his new normal.

What I advocated after 2015 was different than your comparison. Once we got Walker, I wanted to keep Murphy, stick him at 1B and trade Duda. Now, the enigmatic Duda could have a breakthrough 2017, but not doing that cost us the pennant in 2016 for sure, and if the FO had done what I suggested, we'd have one staggeringly good line up in 2017, one that no pitcher would want to face.

May Duda stay healthy and hit 40 this year.

And may Walker, finally with a healthy back, have a career year.

I still like Murph a lot, but if he has a few boo boos and plays just 80 games in 2017, it will be a whole lot easier for the Mets.

Frank Anon said...

I liked Murhpy but i completely understood why he had to go. I loved getting Walker and am still happy with that decision. Walker was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh and one of the better second basemen in the league. Whoever got upset about letting Murphy go doesn't really understand MLB. I hope we extend Walker and slide him to 3B

Mack Ade said...

I miss Murphy and if Walker deserved a QO, so did Murphy.

I would have done everything I could to sign him for at least two more years.

Thomas Brennan said...

Imagine an infield of the following: Murphy 1B, Walker 2B, Cabrera SS, Reyes 3B, Flores and Rivera as back ups.

I would have loved that.

Anonymous said...

Letting Murphy go was a mistake for many reasons.
1. He was more of a leader to these Mets than Wright.
2. Was more clutch than any player on the team not named Cespedes and I would have to see the numbers to make sure he wasn't.
3. He loved being a Mets. Something a lot of players don't care about. See exhibit 1 in Jay Bruce.
4. If Duda got hurt, and he always does, Murphy to the rescue.
5. If Wright got hurt, and he always does, Murphy to the rescue.
6. Fan favorite, came up as a Mets. Deserved better.

Now, in no way am I saying that Walker is not a good player because he is. But, if you project the numbers, Flores would have come very close to Walkers production at a 15M savings. What about TJ Rivera?, who knows, but I liked what I say in his limited play. Saving 15M goes a long way when the pitching is getting expensive.

Not giving their up and coming players proper opportunities is one of the Mets biggest weaknesses in my opinion. It comes down from Sandy and executed by Collins.

1. Lagares comes up and is blocked by the great Eric Young and then Chris Young. He then plays a great year, earns an extension and proceeds to have a bad year when he was clearly hurting. Now he is deemed a 4th outfielder. Kind of begs the question on how many other teams would Lagares be a starter? How many teams would be willing to give him the spot in CF to see what they have?

2. Then there is Conforto who after struggling is now a backup OF as well. It seems how much you make dictates how much you play and thereby will keep rotting along with Lagares and Nimmo to a lesser extent.

So I would say, in my opinion, Murphy, to the Mets, had greater value than Walker.


Reese Kaplan said...

@tom brennan -- your memory is hazy. The Mets made the QO to Murphy the first week of November of 2015 and it was just over a month later after he'd rejected it that they traded for Walker. So the scenario was retain Murphy after Walker was obtained wasn't a possibility (unless, like Cespedes, Murphy opted to become a FA and then return to the Mets).

Mack Ade said...

I miss hazy...

Anonymous said...

Let him Walk(er)
Save the money for the pitching.
There is enough, infield depth
Also pick up Cabrera option,so he can slide over
and give Rosario the SS job

Eddie Corona said...

Reese Your spot on... I was 100 pct on board with letting Murphy walk as a 2b... I am 100 pct on board with letting walker walk (pun intended) as a 2b...
2B is a redundant position in our organization.. we dont need to invest money since we have adequate abundant cheap replacements...
Let walker walk If he has a monster year we can negotaiate with everyone else as Free agent ... But it should be as a 3b if needed... hence he should be exposed to 3b this year to see if that is a viable option this year...
To me i argue picking up cabrera option is wiser mover and you can resign Reyes then (Reyes, cabrera, flores) could form a great bench that can play all over the diamond...

bill metsiac said...

If Murphy took the QO:
Niese instead of Walker.
No comp draft pick.
Another QO decision after the season.

If we gave Murphy the 3 years:
No comp pick.
3 years of Murphy at 2B,or no Duda/Smith at 1B.
His 2016 money further limited the 2016 budget.

Is either of these options better than what we have now?
BTW, who was the comp pick used on--Dunn? Kay? Alonso? Someone else?

Reese Kaplan said...

Anthony Kay

Mack Ade said...

Kay is a nice pick, but he will spend 2017 on the DL and no prospect, especially one coming off TJS, is guaranteed to be a star like Murphy is.

Anonymous said...

The reason that Sandy gave Murphy a QO was simply that he knew, just like everyone else, that he would reject it. No player, especially one hitting free agency, wants to come back to the same team on a one year contract. They instead want the security of multiple years.

Walker on the other hand, accepted the QO only because he was coming off surgery and why would you turn down a 5M raise coming off an injury?

Now, unless I am mistaken, didn't the QO rules changed this year where players can only be offered QO once? If so, it means Walker walks with nothing coming back unless he is traded or extended by Sandy.

Now, as far as Murphy, I offer this thought. If the Mets made it to a WC game with all the injuries and bad clutch hitting, think how far they would have gotten with Murphy batting 3rd and Cespedes 4th.

Murphy was the MVP for the Nats. Without him, they don't win the division.


bill metsiac said...

All true, Viper, but Walker cost us virtually zero in salary since we got him for a useless Niese. This enabled us to add at the deadline (Salas, who helped, and Bruce, who may yet help). And if we gave him the long-term deal we'd give up a lot in Defense over the next 2 seasons.

As is if Walker signs for 3/40 we're covered thru 2019;if he walks, we have more budget room for next year and beyond.

Mack's Mets © 2012