Time is Ripe to Trade Dan Murphy

I know conventional wisdom says the Mets, a financially strapped team that is at least another season away from contention, should almost certainly hold on to a guy like Daniel Murphy, but I can’t help but think they’re best off trading him this winter.

First and foremost, this is assuming the Mets have completely buried the idea that Daniel Murphy can be an everyday second baseman (or at least the better half of a platoon). In which case, Murphy is most valuable as an everyday third baseman.  By keeping Murphy on the bench, the Mets fail to maximize his utility. In other words, for those not familiar with economic jargon, he’s more valuable to another team than he is to the Mets, so long as David Wright is still around.

Of course, a lot of people contend that Murphy would prove quite useful and accumulate plenty of at-bats as a “super-sub.” While the whole Ryan Freel-esque “super-sub” idea sounds really good in theory, it’s flawed and doesn’t really jive with the composition of the current Mets roster.

For one, even if it were the case that Murphy could collect 300-400+ at-bats in a utility role, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s more valuable to another team where he’d accumulate 550-600 at-bats. In other words, an average everyday player provides more value than the best utility player. It’s the same reason why it’s usually ill-advised to move a valuable starting pitcher to the bullpen. (In fact, moving an everyday player to the bench is probably worse; at least pitchers are almost guaranteed to improve their performance if converted to relief. Many hitters’ productions would suffer with more sporadic playing time).

Further, the Mets would be hard-pressed to find playing time for Murphy as a backup. Murphy can play first and third reliably, but David Wright — barring injury — will play every day unless a brutal slump necessitates he take a day off. Ditto Ike Davis, and both Murphy and Davis are left-handed, so he can’t even spot Davis occasionally against a tough southpaw like Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels.

Murphy can probably play second occasionally, so there’s that. Than again, we’ve seen what happens when Murphy only plays second every now and then. He can maybe — maybe — play the corner outfield, though, like Davis, he and Duda are both left-handed. Murphy’s defense will undoubtedly negate a lot of his value in the outfield, so it isn’t that hard to find a fourth outfielder, ala Scott Hairston, that could provide similar value.

Which begs the question, what really is the value of Murphy’s versatility? While Murphy’s offense (.750-.800 OPS.)  is definitely an asset at second — and given the declining state of third base, at the hot corner as well — he doesn’t really provide much value anywhere else. Like I said, fourth outfielders aren’t that hard to find.  Murphy’s offensive production is below average for first basemen, and there are plenty of AAAA mashers out there who could probably provide the same offensive production at first.  And we’re only talking occasional playing time, so marginal differences in value don’t really make a huge difference

Perhaps I’m being naïve here, but the whole value of versatility seems pretty overblown. After all, instead of counting on one guy to be your backup at almost every position, wouldn’t having a solid fourth outfielder, a slick-fielding middle infielder, and a backup first baseman/pinch hitter extraordinaire accomplish the same thing?  Maybe having a super-utility guy allows the team to carry an additional bullpen arm, but a National League team still has to carry at least a four-man bench regardless.

Some people will argue that the Mets should keep Murphy around in case Wright/Davis/Bay/Duda or whoever gets injured. But it’s stupid to keep Murphy around solely because of the possibility that someone might get hurt (especially since none of those players are particularly injury-prone), at the expense of trading him for say, another starter, an outfielder, etc. that you know will play everyday.

Again, if the Mets think Murphy can hold his own at second base, then it makes a lot more sense to hold onto him. His UZR last season was actually quite good at second, although we’re talking about a very small sample size. Having seen his past two seasons derailed by injuries at second base, I imagine the Mets are quite skeptical.

This is also assuming the Mets don’t, of course, trade David Wright instead. At the very least, however, I don’t expect Wright to be dealt before the beginning of the season. Because his 2013 option is voided if he’s traded, Wright’s a one-year rental this year, and a one-year rental the following year to the team that trades for him, and it makes little sense for the Mets to trade him now, as Wright is coming off his worst season and the walls are finally being moved in to accommodate Wright. Although, on the flip side, if Wright merely repeats his 2009-2011 performance, despite the new Citi Field dimensions, his value will not hold steady, but further decrease, since such a season would pretty much confirm the fact that Wright will never re-approach his 2005-2008 MVP-caliber seasons.

What exactly could Murphy fetch in a trade? It’s hard to say, but given production at third base is the lowest it’s been in over a decade, now might be the best time to capitalize on his value.

If the Phillies fail to sign Michael Cuddyer, Murphy could be a very attractive option for the Phils. Murphy appeals to the Phils for the same reasons they are interested in Cuddyer: he could play first base until Ryan Howard returns, and replace Placido Polanco at third, and even occasionally play left or second.  Ideally, the Phillies would want a right-handed bat to balance out their lefty-laden lineup, but otherwise, Murphy certainly dovetails with what the Phillies are looking for.

What could the Mets get? Here I think are a few potential options.

Daniel Murphy for Vance Worley

I think a Murphy for Vance Worley swap could benefit both teams. Worley isn’t as good as his 3.01 era. last year indicates, (3.66 xFIP) but a potential cost-controlled number three or four starter is still quite valuable.

Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell for Domonic Brown

Ok, this might be a bit too optimistic on my part. The Phillies situation with Brown, however, reminds me a lot of the Mets situation with Lastings Milledge four years ago. Not to say Brown will be a bust like Milledge, but Milledge was a similarly highly regarded prospect at the time the Mets dealt him. The Phils appear to have soured quite a bit on Brown the past season, and do not seem willing to commit to him as their everyday left-fielder next season. As the Mets did by trading Milledge to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, the Phils would be trading Brown’s potential for two more dependable  (not to mention cheap) options for next season, at two areas they could use improvement at (first/third base and bullpen). It wouldn’t be the first blunder Ruben Amaro’s ever made.

What do you think? Does it make sense to keep Daniel Murphy around? Why or why not? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Matt is a high school student in New Jersey and avid Mets fan. He occasionally updates his blog at: matthimelfarb.wordpress.com
  1. izzy November 14, 2011 at 9:02 am
    You forgot one teeny weeny item concerning Daniel. He left with a season ending injury. He has no value until he is on the field and proves he is sound. Your logic about him going to the Phillies is kind of amazing. After writing a thesis explaining how he has no value to the Mets as a super sub you say he’d help the Phillies by being a super sub? And do you really think Bobby Parnell is reliable? Reliable only in the sense that he is not reliable. And sure, any met fan would make the trades you list. That’s why they won’t happen. They are from a Met bias. And maybe Amaro’s made bad moves, but he was assistant GM or GM for a run of 5 straight division titles. Is that a bad GM? Have we won 5 in our history? Have we won 2 in a row? ever?
  2. Tony November 14, 2011 at 9:19 am
    I agree on both..one Trading Murphy is not a bad idea..doing it this off season isn’t going to happen because of his knee..also have to wait to see what happens with Reyes..and probably hold on to him until Spring training as insurance for Wright/Davis injury comebacks..after that if all is OK guys like Baxter, Turner, Evans, etc..can hold that role..how is this if Pelfrey has a good first half..Pelf, Murph and prospect for legit #1 starter.
  3. Reality Check November 14, 2011 at 9:43 am
    Are you kidding me? The time is ripe? The guy ended the season on the DL. His value now sucks. If this site has been overrun by high school kids let me know and I’ll just be on my way. Desperation seems to be setting in here and I could get stuff like this in MetsBlog comments. .
  4. gary s. November 14, 2011 at 10:28 am
    I agree with izzy.You make the case that Murphy cannot be a supesub for mets and than you say to trade him to Phillies so he can be their supersub?Duh…
  5. Timo November 14, 2011 at 11:07 am
    Matt, I agree we should trade Murphy. Trade high, however, I also agree that his injury will not get top dollar back for him. Also, trading to the Phillies is not a good idea. They are talking about trading Worley and Brown for Wright. So, I doubt they would trade those guys for Daniel (even with his great Offensive year). We should have traded him last year at the trade deadline.
  6. mic November 14, 2011 at 11:08 am
    Or If
    -DW IS traded and the mets get 3 bonafide studs.
    -Then Murph setles in at 3rd, stays out of the double play…
    -and hits .320+ and shows MORE power (with fences in) …his value could really go up…hmmmm
  7. newmilford November 14, 2011 at 11:17 am
    Agree that a trade might bring some nice value…but Murph is a professional hitter, a Mark Grace type that might hit .300 every year…maybe not…?
  8. Joe November 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm
    Is it really likely that the Phillies and the Mets are going to swap players? That is, other in the sorta sense that their former closer might come to the Mets?

    I agree with the above sentiments — Murphy could be trade bait but his injury makes it problematic. The idea teams should put in him in yet another position (2nd base) also is dubious. To me, the guy is a corner infielder and bench player. Maybe he has DH potential.

    Since I don’t see him as at 2nd, if Ike Davis is healthy, getting something for him would make sense. Hurt, probably makes sense to wait to next summer though.

  9. Timo November 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm
    D.Murph is the next Angel Pagan. A one hit wonder. I really hope I’m wrong. The Mets will try D.Murph @ 2nd to get him in the lineup but HE is DEFINITELY not a middle infielder. He will only be useful if Wright gets traded or Ike can’t come back strong. Wright will only get 1 prospect and other throw-ins right now.
    MAYBE Reyes, Wright, and other longtime Mets sign or get traded to Playoff teams so I can watch “Mets” in the playoff for 2012.
  10. NormE November 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm
    I had a supervisor who counseled never to make a decision until you have to. With Reyes and possibly Wright hanging in air now is not the time to trade Murphy. Also, as others above have pointed out, his value is low at the moment.
    Should the opportunity come to trade him after the dust has settled then you have to look at what the Mets night get in return.
    Another factor, given the “value” policy that some attribute to Alderson, Murphy is an attractive low salary worker.
  11. argonbunnies November 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm
    I do like the logic of offering “win now” teams something reliable in exchange for upside gambles. A slightly disappointing prospect who still has time to turn it around is perfect. Even if we can’t get a Domonic Brown, we should be trying.

    If only we had more reliability to offer. Dickey’s about it.

    On Murph, I agree that we’re not maximizing his value as a super-sub. If we’re only sorta rebuilding he should be at second, and if we’re really really rebuilding he should be at third.

    • Joe Janish November 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm
      I’m not sure Murphy should be part of any rebuilding plans. He’ll be 27 years old on Opening Day 2012, and the Mets are likely building for 2014-2017 and beyond — at which point Murphy will be heading toward his 30s and starting the downward trend of his career. Shouldn’t rebuilding happen with kids in their early 20s?
      • argonbunnies November 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm
        Well, the way I figure, there’s rebuilding cornerstones and rebuilding complementary parts. Murphy clearly is not a rebuilding cornerstone. But he could be an excellent complementary part.

        If 2014 is our first year of contention, and we could have a 29-year-old above-average hitter manning 2nd or 3rd base and not making a ton of money, that sounds like a good thing to me.

        And then we replace him a season or two later.

        Look at the Rays. Those guys aren’t are all superstars, but the ones who aren’t can still contribute something and cost next to nothing.

        If arbitration guarantees that Murphy will be getting paid exactly what he’s worth in 2014, then maybe my logic doesn’t apply here. I’ve been assuming that he’d present a substantial savings over a similarly skilled free agent.

  12. JoeBourgeois November 15, 2011 at 4:26 am
    Did Ruben Amaro get a lobotomy we haven’t heard about?