Are Daniel Murphy’s Days Numbered?

Is Daniel Murphy one four-hit game by Dilson Herrera away from being Wally Pipped?

Certainly, the question should be on the mind of the Mets fan: how much longer will Daniel Murphy remain in a Mets uniform? Yes, Murphy’s been one of the team’s top offensive performers for the past four years — though it’s debatable whether he’s ever hit enough to make up for his mediocre defense, baserunning blunders, and mental errors. His lack of fundamentals and streaky bat have always made him more suitable as a “super sub” than an everyday player for a championship ballclub, and now that the Mets are publicly pushing for the playoffs, it’s time for Murphy to move into that role — or be dealt away while he still has value.

After lighting up the PCL with a .370 AVG in the first 20 games, Dilson Herrera was promoted to take over second base while Murphy shifted to 3B to fill in for the injured David Wright. So far, the moves have been underwhelming at best, with Herrera hitting .200 and Murphy looking uncomfortable at the hot corner. Surely, it’s unfair to have expected Murphy to make a quick adjustment to third base after spending most of the last four years at 2B; prior to last week, Murphy had played only 16 MLB games at 3B since 2011. At the same time, it’s also unfair to judge Herrera on three games. Further, one has to expect a 21-year-old to experience bumps in the big leagues. But the writing is on the wall, and the Mets’ second baseman of the future is here now.

What will it take for Herrera to remain at 2B upon Wright’s return? Will he need to hit, say, .270 with a .330 OBP? Or will slick fielding and slightly less stick be enough? Will it be a combination of Herrera holding his own and Murphy continuing to languish at the Mendoza Line?

Or, will it be the right deal coming along?

In case you missed it, all the buzz has been about Giants GM Brian Sabean “scouting” the Mets. The usually pitching-rich Giants are in need of an extra starter, preferably a veteran, and the Mets have one in Dillon Gee. San Francisco could also use an upgrade at 3B, and might be open to the idea of acquiring Murphy to platoon with Casey McGehee. Then again, maybe that deal doesn’t make any sense at all, considering that McGehee hit .303 against righthanders last year while only .219 against lefties. And maybe the Mets shouldn’t be so quick to deal Gee, considering Rafael Montero‘s recent shoulder issue. Or maybe, while Gee has been pitching so well, and value strong, now is the time to trade him.

Oh, and then there’s the issue of dumping two “big” salaries that the Mets were dying to shed over the winter. Not to mention that Murphy will be a free agent at the end of the year, and Gee in line for another raise that the Mets may not want to pay. It seems like too good a fit for a deal not to happen.

But what would the Mets want in return? A projectable arm from A-ball? Salary relief? McGehee? I have no idea, though I’m betting on salary relief and a minor league suspect or two.

Of course, the San Francisco Giants are not the only club that might be interested in Murphy (and Gee, for that matter). The Brewers, if they’re looking to right the ship rather than wave the white flag, could be looking for an offensive upgrade at 2B. The Angels are struggling to add offense to their club. Then again, maybe the Mets keep Murphy upon Wright’s return and use him as the “super sub” he was always meant to be. For such a scenario to occur, Herrera certainly will have to prove he can handle MLB.

What say you? Is this much ado about nothing? Or is Murphy on the way out? Post your reaction in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Bat May 5, 2015 at 7:12 pm
    Happy Janish Day!

    Glad to see the groundhog pop his head out of the hole.

    I’m not sure I understand why everyone is so eager to trade Murphy, and Gee and/or Niese.

    As Joe says above – what are we getting for these guys? If the answer is lower level prospects, then just keep everyone and soon enough injuries and performance (lackluster or great) will sort this out.

    But the Mets shouldn’t need to shed salary, so if you want to continue to play Herrera at 2B after Wright returns and the question is what to do with Murphy, I would argue that Murphy should go to the bench and be the super sub everyone always says he should be.

    Same for Gee and Niese…if Synder and Matz continue to perform well at AAA, give them a chance in the bullpen, or move Gee and Niese to the bullpen and give them an opportunity to start.

    But I’m not sure why anyone should be traded to shed salary or because Herrera, Synder, or Matz is up and coming. Let’s wait until those guys with gaudy minor league stats prove themselves capable in the majors before jettisoning Murphy, Gee, and Niese.

    • Joe Janish May 5, 2015 at 9:02 pm
      I think the Mets will jump at the chance to shed the salaries of Murphy/Gee, considering that’s what they were trying to do all winter and failed. The argument will be that it gives them flexibility to make a deal at the deadline — a deal we know they’ll never make, but nonetheless, that will be the party line and it will feed the “trade for Tulo” frenzy that is sure to erupt if the Mets are still competing in early July, the Rox are struggling, and there’s still a gaping hole at shortstop.
      • crozier May 5, 2015 at 11:15 pm
        Cynic though I may be, I don’t see getting rid of Murphy or Gee as being salary-driven. The Mets have better players waiting to replace them, and the time to do so is this year, not next. I remain skeptical that the Mets will ultimately compete this year – though I won’t complain if they do – but if 2016 improves on a decent team, I want the AAA talent to have had some seasoning this year.

        Alderson has generally avoided trades that don’t bring promising talent in return, but he may settle for less to offload Gee/Niese/Murphy. We’ll know soon enough.

        But “gaping hole at shortstop” – true enough. Mets might have three or four more wins were it not for the middle infield.

        Nice to read you again, Joe.

        • Dan B May 6, 2015 at 9:00 am
          As Campbell proved, the Mets need more depth. Even if Herrera proves to be better then Murphy, the Mets still would need backups at second and third and first (keep Cuddyer in the outfield where they also lack depth) The same could be said about starting pitching. If these guys could be traded for players who can help now, sure do it. But if the Mets get prospects, then they punted on this year and it is a salary dump.
      • Ernest fred May 7, 2015 at 8:53 pm
        I would hate to see them do this as a salary dump. Attendance is up, revenues are up, Wilpons are much better off financially than in recent years. There is no good reason for them to “:dump” these guys.
        Bat is Absolutely correct. If we can get good value, let the young guns play; matz, suyderguard, montero are enough to bank on for a starter. Same with Herrera and matt Reynolds for 2b. But don’t give these guys away, they are significantly better than there counterparts on many major league rosters.
  2. Bat May 6, 2015 at 8:10 am
    I actually think the Mets might get Tulo later in the year.

    They have a significant amount of depth, and could do a four for one or five for one trade, which is the type of package that would be required to bag Tulo.

    I am thinking two of the following three pitchers: Syndergaard, Matz, and Montero;


    Two of the following three position pitchers: Nimmo, Plawecki, and Plawecki (with Conforto the least likely of the three to be included because the Mets are enamored with him);

    AND probably a fifth guy from this list of players:

    Marcus Molina, Amed Rosario, Urena, Cecchini, with the Mets probably trying to avoid giving up Molina (because they are already giving up significant pitching assets) or Rosario (because of these four players he is the most highly regarded), and pushing the Rockies more towards Urena or Cecchini.

    The inclusion of Flores or Reynolds in the package is also a possibility, probably in lieu of the Molina / Rosario / Urena / Cecchini player.

    • Dan B May 6, 2015 at 9:06 am
      Rockies would have to eat a lot of salary. The Mets might want to throw in Bobby Bonilla, too. Tullo’s contract doesn’t fit Alderson’s strategy or the Wilpons’ wallet.
    • argonbunnies May 7, 2015 at 11:12 pm
      Very interesting!

      Thor, Montero, Nimmo, Plawecki and Cecchini — I would do that for Tulo, and would call that a perfectly fair haul for the Rockies (based mainly on Thor and Plawecki). I would say it’s risky for the Mets because of Tulo’s health, but if they really want to win and can’t figure out a trade with the Cubs, then you have to take your shot.

      Thor, Matz, Plawecki, Conforto and Rosario — I dunno if I would do that. That’d pretty much clean the Mets minors out of potential impact talent, leaving us with a bunch of Murphy/Gee/Niewenhuis types. I would only be in favor of this if it ushers in an age of greater spending, because the Mets will need it more than ever to fill roster holes that won’t be filled from the farm system.

      Here’s the thing about value: When a team decides it’s time to trade a genuine superstar, this package — a AAA ace who’s ready to debut + an everyday AAA catcher who’s also ready + some sweetener — isn’t that atypical a return even if the superstar is healthy. With Tulo’s health record, I’d wonder if the Mets could get him for less than Bat’s offer. Who out there is going to top Thor, Plawecki and Cecchini? On the other hand, if the Rockies DON’T simply decide it’s time to trade Tulo, there may be nothing the Mets can do to get him short of a truly ridiculous overpay (which I’d be against).

  3. Bat May 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm
    Dan, I think with the package of five players I proposed above (with apologies for the double mention of “Plawecki” which should have read “Conforto”), the Mets might be able to get the Rockies to eat around $20 to $25 million and I think the Wilpons would spring for the rest.

    Supposing Tulo is dealt mid year, that means 5.5 years remains on his contract.

    Tulo’s remaining contract is:
    -2015 to 2019, $20 million per year
    -2020, $14 million
    -2021, club option at $15 million ($4 million buyout)

    So if he’s traded mid-year 2015, that is:
    -$10 million remaining this year;
    -$80 million, 2016 to 2019;
    -$14 million, 2020; and
    -$4 million 2021;

    for a grand (guaranteed) total of $108 million.

    If the Rockies pick up (by way of example) $25 million, the Mets owe Tulo $83 million to play for them through 2020, which is 5.5 years.

    $83 million / 5.5 = $15 million per year.

    The Mets signed Colon for two years at $10 million per year (and you could use other examples here as well as Colon), so I don’t think it is unrealistic to pay your starting star SS $15 million per year.

    The issue the transaction might encounter is that, because of Tulo’s injury history, there is probably no way the Mets can get insurance on the deal. And the Wilpons may shy away because of that. If Tulo is out for long periods of time or worse, his career is over because of an injury, the Mets – and therefore the Wilpons – get no relief.

  4. Jason May 7, 2015 at 12:11 am
    I really hope we wouldn’t give up the players in that 5 for 1 deal. Comforto, Plawecki, Matz, and Syndergaard will all be multiple all-stars, nobody gives up that much talent for 1 player. if the Mets offered that deal, the Rockies should jump on it even if it meant eating all of Tulo’s salary.
    • Joe Janish May 7, 2015 at 6:28 am
      Matz and Syndergaard will have chronic arm problems because of mechanical flaws that will never get corrected. Mets would be smart to sell high on them. Plawecki a multiple All-Star? We’ll see. Conforto has yet to play above A-ball. At some point a team needs to consider the present rather than stocking for the future. The ’86 Mets don’t go to the World Series w/o making the Gary Carter deal, and the ’00 Mets don’t go w/o the Piazza trade. If Tulo could potentially provide that kind of “final piece,” you’d not make that deal for fear the others would become All-Stars at some point in the future?
  5. AL May 7, 2015 at 1:44 am
    I agree with Jason, the deal Bat is proposing would gut the farm system and be a disaster. Tulo would break down a week after coming to the Mets and the trade would haunt them forever.

    I’d give them Montero, Nimmo, Dominic Smith and plenty of balls and bats. And agree to spend the Wilpons’ money by taking on almost the whole salary. They can save money by trading Gee and Niese for prospects and promote Matz/Syndergaard.

    • Joe Janish May 7, 2015 at 7:34 am
      And in 2006 the Mets didn’t make a mid-season deal for Jason Bay or Manny Ramirez, nor the extra arms they needed to put them over the top. Hasn’t that lack of action “haunted them” ever since?

      If the Mets aren’t going to make a big deal this year, then they clearly don’t believe they have a legitimate shot to do anything of consequence come late September. Or they’re cheap. Or both. Just because there’s a different GM and younger faces on the field doesn’t mean the system changes. The Mets under current ownership have always operated such that they spend just enough to keep the fans interested through 162 games. It won’t change now.

      • Bat May 7, 2015 at 9:57 am
        Joe, see my post below.

        IIRC, the reason the Mets didn’t trade for Manny Ramirez – a certain first ballot Hall of Famer unless PED use is held against him – is because they didn’t want to give up Lastings Milledge.

        Indeed, how did that work out for them?

    • Bat May 7, 2015 at 9:46 am
      These two posts above by Jason and Al are exactly what fans say.

      Jason: All of these prospects will be multiple All Stars.

      Al: Let’s just give up our garbage (e.g., Dom Smith hitting .163 this year and now on the DL, and we should also give up “plenty of bats and balls”) for a player who is quite possibly the best SS in the game. Montero and Nimmo are unproven as of yet, and Nimmo especially looks like he might be a platoon player if he even reaches the majors.

      The bottom line is that you have to trade quality to get quality.

      Everyone thought David West, Shawn Abner, Stan Jefferson, Lastings Milledge, Fernando Martinez, Alex Ochoa, Alex Escobar, Mike Pelfrey, Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher, Jason Tyler, Ryan Thompson, and all these other hyped prospects would be stars.

      One thing I can guarantee you Jason is that definitely – without a doubt, in my mind – all four of Conforto, Plaw, Matz, and Syndergaard will NOT be multiple All Stars. Most prospects fail due to the difficulty of playing MLB baseball, and this will certainly apply to the Mets as it does to any other team. The Mets will be fortunate if one of these guys is a multiple All Star; one is a ML regular; one is a contributor; and one flames out.

      • Extragooey May 7, 2015 at 12:47 pm
        You don’t think you are giving up a bit much? I think you are. Here are the rankings if ranked (top 100 list in baseball 2015 for Baseball America) of the prospects you want to trade for Tulo,

        Syndergaard #11
        Mats #33
        Nimmo #45
        Plawecki #63

        All this for a player who’s on the wrong side of 30, already showing signs of breaking down, and with eye opening Coors Field splits throughout his career.

        As a comparison, this is what the Mets traded away for Piazza back in ’98

        Preston Wilson #70
        Geoff Goetz #96
        Ed Yarnell

        The ranking are according to this article,

        Piazza was already considered arguably the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the game. He was also younger and his numbers were playing in Dodger stadium and not Coors.

        While Tulo is under contract, I consider this a negative since that contract isn’t exactly team friendly considering what I pointed out above.

        I agree, prospects don’t pan out. Most don’t. However, perceived value is what you have to work with. The Mets farm system is ranked high, mostly due to those players you listed. Giving all of them away for what is a good player outside of Coors field is way too much. I think 2 or 3 is fair, but personally I wouldn’t even pull that trigger for Tulo. Check his home and away splits if you haven’t.

  6. argonbunnies May 7, 2015 at 4:51 pm
    The Wilpons would like to win, but their top priority is putting butts in the seats (and in front of SNY).

    So far in 2015, attendance and viewership is way up. Despite the cynicism/realism of some bloggers, many fans appear to have bought into the idea that the Mets’ youth movement is a genuine cause for optimism, and that the return of Harvey, plus the acquisition of Cuddyer, was all the team needed for 2015.

    Then we have raving fan Jim Breuer coming on Wednesday’s broadcast to spew enthusiasm and, when asked for an end-of-year prediction, saying, “I’ll be disappointed if they don’t win 80.”

    I am happy that my fellow Mets fans are excited to be watching this team, but I’m sad to see the lowered expectations and the message that is being sent to the Wilpons.

    Unless something drastically changes in the next few months, you can bet the Wilpons won’t be bolstering this roster with any costly additions. Why should they? They’ve already gotten what they wanted.

  7. Steve S. May 9, 2015 at 11:31 am
    The Wilpons are horrible owners. Maybe the worst in baseball. The idea that they would take on most of Tulo’s salary is laughable. Many more fans are showing up to games now, even though the Mets have a ridiculous $100 million payroll, and have done very little to improve the big league team dramatically. They are an 85-win team. Had more money been spent in the past few years (e.g., signing Jhonny Peralta and his 115-120 OPS+ stats before the 2014 season), the Mets would be headed for the playoffs probably.