Whether it’s now or in 3 weeks, this could be the end of Daniel Murphy with the Mets
The Mets have truly reached the cross roads of their season in 2015. They’re staring at the possibility of coming home to either prepare for and play the Cubs on Saturday at Citi Field, or to come home, pack their lockers, and adjourn for the winter.
But for Daniel Murphy, his future is less certain with the Mets than many of his teammates. He is a free agent at the end of the season, and there is no indication at all the club is interested in giving him a new and probably long-term deal to retain his services.
With a pipeline of younger talent which conceivably has a higher ceiling (and certainly less expensive) than that of Murphy, it stands to reason the Mets and Murphy will be parting ways following the conclusion of the 2015 season, whether that happens after tonight’s game or after their final game down the line in October, whenever that is.
In some cases, parting ways for certain players might not be as difficult as it is for a player such as Murphy. He was the club’s 13th round selection in the last season the Mets were in the playoffs before 2015, in 2006. He signed a month later and began his journey to the big leagues, pushing through their minor league system at every level – from the Gulf Coast League all the way through Triple-A with relative ease before debuting for the Mets in late 2008.
He was with the club during their second failed attempt to reach the playoffs in as many years. He was then asked to be a left-fielder, an assignment he took on admirably but failed at miserably.
He played all over the infield in 2011 before taking on the daunting task of being a second baseman in 2012, something which was completely foreign to a player who was best suited for third base but had no chance of ever seeing regular playing time there.
He settled in to become a serviceable second baseman over the next several years, earning an All-Star nod at the position in 2014. He never proved to be a league-average second baseman, according to the advanced metrics, but he has shown his moments of stability at the position for the Mets despite suffering through his typical Murphy-like mental gaffes over the years.
And in 2015, with injuries striking both David Wright and Lucas Duda over the course of the season, Murphy has been able to showcase what the industry largely believes him to be, which is a utility player capable of playing every day at multiple positions.
One thing is for certain: Murphy has shown to be a consistent, everyday force in the lineup for the Mets in every season he’s been with the club. He’s a .288/.331/.424 lifetime hitter in his seven big league seasons, and he set a career-high with 14 home runs in 2015, eight of which tied or gave the Mets the lead.
He’s hit two home runs in the Division Series already, both of which have come against the mighty Clayton Kershaw, two of his three against left-handed pitching all year long.
Is just’s in time too, as he will be seeking his first contract as a free agent in as little as three weeks.
“The organization, since I’ve been here, has been through a lot,” Murphy told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “It’s nice to see the fruits of the labor from top to bottom, from ownership all the way down to the players. This was the goal in Spring Training, to put ourselves in this position. There’s a great group of guys in that clubhouse. I think we’ve all gelled really well. It’s been a great deal of fun. I think we sincerely pull for each other and it’s made this season exciting.”
He has said all the right things throughout the year, going as far as saying he wants to remain with the Mets beyond this season. But there is still no indication the club has any interest in retaining Murphy beyond 2015. All signs continue to point to Murphy being elsewhere in 2016 with Dilson Herrera being the obvious successor at second base.
If the Mets let Murphy walk, would they be assuming risk? There’s no question retaining a known quantity for an unknown quantity is risky (although Herrera is a young, promising player with the potential to be better in the long-term), especially if the club intends to remain competitive in the short-term.
But, as it’s been discussed time and time again, it’s a value game when it comes to any player, and if the Mets feel they have or can get an equivalent, if not better player for the position in both the short and long-term at a lesser cost, it’s not an unreasonable consideration to make.
The question is, of course, can Herrera (or anyone else) replace Murphy’s .756 career OPS at second base in 2016?
If only they could predict the future.