Tag: dan murphy

The Fourth Outfielder

I keep reading in various places that the Mets have earmarked a portion of their meager winter budget for a fourth outfielder. If this is true, why?

It’s pretty much been established that the 2011 season will not be one seeing the Mets fighting for a playoff spot. Call it “rebuliding”, “assessing and evaluating”, “reconstructing”, or whatever you wish — the bottom line is that the team is not making a conscious effort for the short-term, and is only in the nascent stages of the long-term plan. That said, why would there be any concern about acquiring a fourth outfielder — even if it is low on the list of priorities?

Moreover, don’t the Mets already have a fourth outfielder somewhere in their system? Unless something changes between now and opening day, the starting outfield will consist of Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, and Jason Bay. None of these three men need a defensive replacement in the late innings, and none are likely to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in any situation, either. Beltran is the only of the three who may require regular rest; if he’s the starting centerfielder, Pagan will slide into his spot on those days and a the “fourth” outfielder will step into a corner.

Now that we’ve established the regular routine, what do the Mets need from that fourth outfielder?

Ideally, he’s someone who can provide some power on the days Beltran (or Bay) is absent from the lineup. It would help, but is not necessary, if he can cover all three outfield positions; if Pagan turns out to be the starting centerfielder, both Bay and Beltran are capable of handling CF when Pagan needs a break. Additionally, this extra outfielder should also be a potentially strong pinch-hitter. In reality, the Mets probably are best suited with not only a fourth outfielder but a fifth one as well — but that “fifth” would also be versatile enough to handle an infield position (or catch) and have a slightly different skill set (i.e., hit from the opposite side, provide speed if the other has power, etc.).

Taking a cursory look at the Mets 40-man roster and high-level minor leaguers, there are several candidates to fill these roles:

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Free Agent Focus: Second Base

Is there a Mets fan alive who wants to see Luis Castillo at second base on Opening Day 2011?

Unfortunately, it will take a minor miracle by Sandy Alderson to move him this winter — without swallowing some or all of the $6M left on his contract.

But let’s pretend Castillo is out of the picture, and the Mets are looking at the free-agent market to take his place. In such a case what are the Mets’ options?

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F-Mart Injured After One Game

According to ESPN-NY, Fernando Martinez experienced knee discomfort in his first game with Escogido of the Dominican League and could possibly be shut down for the remainder of the winter.

Martinez had gone 1-for-3 with 2 RBI, but reportedly had issues with the same knee that ended his 2010 season after 71 games. It is assumed that the Mets will make the decision as to whether he will continue playing or rest until the spring.

However, there is good news coming out of Escogido. Second baseman Justin Turner also made his winter league debut and came out of it healthy. He had one hit in four at-bats.

Speaking of second base and the winter leagues, Daniel Murphy has been “very serviceable” at the position, according to a scout quoted by Adam Rubin (also on ESPN-NY). Per the scout:

“He was very serviceable. He made all the plays but one. He had a routine groundball go through his legs. But it was no big deal. He turned a couple of double plays. He moved to his left and his right. He moved better to the first base side, which would be to his left. And his throwing was good. It was accurate. His arm action is a little long from second. If he could tighten that up, it might serve him a little better. It’s almost like an outfield thrower’s arm. A catcher brings it up short and tight to his ear; you want to have a little shorter arm action. But he’s working hard.”

However, Rubin has also just reported that Murphy will need “five consecutive days resting” due to “tired legs” after playing in all 28 of his team’s games. That has me mildly concerned. Let’s hope he truly is fatigued and not suffering some kind of a relapse with his injured knee. I for one would like to see a Turner – Murphy battle at second base in the spring.

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Trade Carlos Beltran?

Over at mlbtraderumors, Tim Dierkes broached the possibility of trading Carlos Beltran.

Unless the Mets are in dire straits financially and need to further cut payroll next year, I think the whole premise behind trading Beltran is that the Mets would be better off reinvesting most of the money committed to him to a more sure-fire investment, or perhaps fixing a variety of needs at the big league level next year. Despite the immense pressure to win, maybe the Mets will have a hard time adding salary, but I think they will at least try to keep payroll constant.

It is hard for me to opine on this matter, since I do not know who will be available via trade next off-season or much about the free agent market.

But I will say this. Let’s say Beltran gets hot over the next three weeks; I am almost sure he will, if for no other reason than regression to the mean (he is not .612 OPS bad). Say he raises his overall line to a respectable .265/.335/.430. The Mets then trade him to some club offering some B-grade prospects in return for the Mets agreeing to assume around $6 million of the $18.5 milllion Beltran is due next year. That sounds awfully tempting.

I think that is a reasonable deal. Say he matches production similar to his 2007 or 2008 campaigns- an .875 OPS. and an wOBA around .375 or .380. I will be pessimistic and say he costs 10 runs defensively in center, and is merely average defensively in right. Under either scenario, he would be worth roughly 3.5 wins — the market for that is $16 million, and more for a contending ballclub. In fact, thinking about that makes me reluctant to trade him.

In addition, the fanbase’s reception to trading him should not be too worrisome; the Mets can pay Joe Beningo to launch a Soviet-style propaganda campaign aganinst Beltran.

In all seriousness, though, part of this decision will almost certainly hinge on the organization’s faith in Fernando Martinez and how he will perform while with the big club. As I mentioned in my last post, while I am not as worried about the promotion derailing his development, I could envision a scenario where Martinez holds his own at the plate over the remaining short stretch of the season, hitting .270/.335/.430, with an average wOBA (.330-.335), causing the Mets to trade Beltran and making Martinez the starting right fielder next year. We have seen this act before: in 151 plate appearances in 2008, Daniel Murphy hit .313/.397/.473 with a .373 wOBA, and Jerry Manuel declared him the starting left fielder next spring.

Hoping that Martinez will be an even average hitter is probably an unrealistic expectation, considering he only posted a .786 OPS. and a .338 wOBA in AAA this year. Even if Martinez replicated that production in the majors — and I am assuming he would also save 5-10 runs in right field over a full season given his range — you are still looking at a very fringy, about 2-win starter, and there is a whole lot of downside to consider. Given he would be making the league minimum, maybe the Mets are willing to settle for that, but they would be better off saving his cost-controlled years for when he is really ready to be productive.

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The Dan Murphy Disaster

Last year on this blog, I wrote about the Dan Murphy Myth. As a result of my “negativity” (I called it “realism”), many people thought I “didn’t like” Dan Murphy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was merely being realistic about the kid’s skillset. To me, he was a so-so MLB hitter with no speed, below-average instincts, suspect strike zone judgment, slow feet in the field, and hard hands. I always felt his absolute ceiling was comparable to Mike Hargrove or Mark Grace, but more likely Matt Franco.

We may never know for sure whether Murphy had a chance to be Mark Grace, because his latest knee injury will have him out for the year — and potentially end his MLB career. The real shame, though, is that it didn’t have to happen this way.

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Dan Murphy Will Wing It in Buffalo

According to Brian Costa of the Star-Ledger, the Mets will send Daniel Murphy to AAA Buffalo once his knee has completely healed.

Per Costa:

The Mets plan to send Murphy, 24, to Buffalo for two reasons. From an offensive standpoint, they think it would be better for his development to get regular at-bats, which isn’t likely to happen in the majors. And defensively, the Mets want Murphy to play multiple positions, including first base, second base and left field.

Part of the thinking is that greater defensive versatility would increase his trade value, but it would also make him more valuable to the organization if he isn’t traded.

Interesting, isn’t it? We’ve expressed similar thoughts about Murphy right here at MetsToday — that he’d ultimately be most valuable as a “supersub” a la Mark DeRosa (or Don Money, for old farts like me).

So the “golden boy” has fallen from the grace of the Mets management; maybe now we can finally stop comparing him to Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Edgardo Alfonzo, etc., and just let him become Daniel Murphy. The idea that Murphy could/would be the starting first baseman was mythical from the beginning, but who’s to say he can’t reinvent himself (again) and turn into a very good, valuable part-time player?

Considering that AAA Buffalo already has lefthanded-hitting Mike Jacobs installed at first base, and the”Monster” Chris Carter splitting time among 1B, OF, and DH, I would guess that Murphy will be getting some reps at both 2B and 3B for the Bisons. Many Mets fans I’m sure would like to see Murphy playing second base exclusively, so that he can supplant Luis Castillo. But I doubt very highly that Daniel has the feet and hands to develop into an everyday MLB second baseman; we’ll see. The one place I’d really like to see Murphy is behind the plate. Again, I doubt he can develop into Johnny Bench back there, but I believe he has enough athleticism, toughness, and the right work ethic to make himself into a capable third-stringer. It’s always nice to have that third / emergency catcher on the 25-man roster — especially one who can be a strong pinch-hitting threat.

There’s one thing about Murphy’s demotion that doesn’t sit right with me, however — the fact that he essentially lost the starting job due to an injury. By all accounts, Murphy was the starting first baseman going into Opening Day — and walked into spring training as the starter, according to Jerry Manuel. While we may not have agreed with that decision, the fact is that Murphy was going to be “the guy” at first base — and possibly batting cleanup (!) — until he injured his knee. Now when he’s healed, he’ll be a backup utilityman in Buffalo. Something just ain’t right with that (kind of like Omir Santos going from starting catcher to AAA backup in a matter of 24 hours).

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