It is that time of year again: the usual Spring Training fluff pieces are in full flower. One of the more interesting quotes so far in this newborn season came from new Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, who predicts that Daniel Murphy could win the NL batting crown.
Murphy is certainly one of the more controversial characters to emerge in this post-Madoff era of Met history. Reminiscent of the types of debates mid-1990’s Mets fans had over Jeff Kent, there are few folks that are merely lukewarm on Murph. One side wants this home-grown, gritty, blue-collar All Star signed to a long-term extension. The other side would have traded him two off-seasons ago and wants him moved at least by the July 31 trade deadline, if not sooner.
If the last few seasons have shown us nothing else, they are stark reminders that baseball is a business and the players are merely depreciating assets. With an ownership as financially hamstrung as the Wilpons apparently are, proper control over these depreciating assets is a vital necessity for them in their quest to hang on to this franchise.
Let’s face it: that the Mets have held on to Murphy this long is entirely due to the fact that his salary is relatively low, vis-a-vis his production. That will change after this year, when Daniel is a first-time free agent and looking at a big payday.
So, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the Mets are hoping that Daniel has one of those last-year-of- my-contract career seasons. This may seem counterintuitive on the surface, but if you peel the layers back a bit, it makes perfect sense.
The Mets don’t want Murphy beyond 2015. They have what they perceive to be a perfectly suitable replacement in Dilson Herrera, who should be major league ready by the end of the season. What the Mets want is a huge season from Murph (think Jose Reyes 2011 huge). If he hits say .330 and bangs out 200 hits, there is no way he doesn’t become one of the top free agents in the next class. This works to the Mets advantage, as they can make him a Qualifying Offer, which he will likely turn down in search of a much larger payday. The Mets in turn get an extra first round draft pick, which right now looks like a better and cheaper alternative to any player(s)from other teams that have been linked to the Mets in a trade for Murphy.
There is precedence for this with Reyes. The Mets let him walk, much to the dismay of their fans, garnering two draft picks in return. Those picks have turned into Kevin Plawecki and Matt Reynolds. Both players are on the verge of breaking into the majors this year and are both (more so in Plawecki’s case) regarded as bona-fide prospects. It will make GM Sandy Alderson look pretty smart if he traded a depreciating asset like Reyes (who since moved on to another team) for two serviceable players on his 25-man roster during what he hopes is the year they return to postseason.
Speaking of trades, if Murphy does indeed have a career year this year, there is very little chance he is dealt at the trade deadline, unless the entire Mets season has otherwise gone down the dumper. If the team is even within hailing distance of a postseason berth, you can bank on another quiet deadline for Alderson.
Yep, just like they drew it up: Murph just has to stay healthy and hit the way Long thinks he can. (BTW-Peter Gammons called Long one of the best free agent signings of the offseason) The Mets will reap the benefits of an additional first-round pick, refreshing their farm system while some poor team pays Daniel for what he did for while with the Mets.
Or am I giving the Mets too much credit?