Daniel Murphy is the Least of the Mets’ Problems
From longtime, loyal MetsToday reader and commenter “crozier:”
Nothing, but nothing, stirs up the Mets Today forum like Dan Murphy. If he’s traded, there will be so much less to discuss!
Murphy’s OPS+ stands at 104: he’s nobody’s MVP, but he isn’t terrible. His 87% SB quotient suggests he isn’t an idiot in the running game. If he improves his plate discipline next year, and improves his defense – I’m not saying this is too terribly likely, but it wouldn’t be miraculous, either – he would be a legitimately above average player. So yes, I can see him being attractive trade bait. But despite the lack of love in this community, he hasn’t been a disgrace, and there are much bigger issues to deal with in 2014.
I agree with Crozier. Nothing stirs up the MetsToday pot like a Daniel Murphy discussion. And yes, there will be so much less to discuss here if Murph is jettisoned during the offseason. And yes, he’s nobody’s MVP. And yes, if by some miracle Murphy can improve both his OBP and defense, he’ll be an above-average player.
Has he been a disgrace? Debatable; it all depends on what you value in a ballplayer. If it’s purely offensive numbers, then no. If it’s enthusiasm, no — one thing no one can ever fault Dan Murphy for is his enthusiasm, energy, and hustle. As for fundamentals, defense, and “headiness,” well, maybe “disgrace” is not the right word, but there’s enough to argue.
But a very big question, to me, is crozier’s last comment: are there much bigger issues to deal with in 2014?
On the surface, sure, it’s easy to say, “Dan Murphy is the least of the Mets’ problems” — because the Mets have so many gosh-darned problems. But this has become a tired, perpetual argument; people have been defending Murphy, and saying he’s “the least of the Mets problems” since around the time a baseball bounced off his glove in left field, costing “team leader” Johan Santana a ballgame.
This phrase “Dan Murphy is the least of the Mets’ problems” has become so common and prevalent, I’m starting to wonder if Dan Murphy EPITOMIZES the Mets’ problems.
Though I shouldn’t pick out Murphy specifically, because I’ve read and heard the same thing in reference to other Mets. Such as:
“Bobby Parnell is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
“Omar Quintanilla is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
“Ruben Tejada is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
“Scott Atchison / David Aardsma is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
“Robert Carson / Josh Edgin / Gonzalez Germen is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
“Lucas Duda is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
“Ike Davis is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
“Josh Satin is the least of the Mets’ problems.”
At some point, the madness has to stop, and we have to say, “hey, exactly WHAT or WHO IS the Mets’ problem?” And/or, we have to look at all of these “least” problems, add them up, step back, and realize that all of these issues are the Mets’ problem.
Having a DH play second base isn’t a major problem? OK. How about having a DH play second base, no power production at three of the four corner positions, and a gaping hole at shortstop? Is THAT a problem?
The Mets need to find bona fide solutions at five positions on the diamond — and that’s assuming one or both of Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker fill center field the way we all hope. There is no “least” or “most” when it comes to this, and in fact, it could be argued that the two middle positions — second base and shortstop — are the priority. After all, winning teams tend to be “strong up the middle” and premium players at those positions are difficult to find.
Five or ten years ago, when players were juiced up and teams scoring 5-7 runs a game, it didn’t matter so much to have a less-than-solid player playing a premium defensive position — the homeruns made up for the defensive and fundamental gaffes. But PEDs testing has reverted the game back to where it was in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, when an everyday “big leaguer” needed to be at least average if not strong in every aspect of the game — and if he wasn’t, he needed to have one well-above-average tool, such as speed, defense, or homerun power. A team could live with Dave Kingman at 1B or LF because he hit more homeruns than nearly everyone else. They could live with Garry Maddox‘s bat because no one played a better center field. Omar Moreno had a job despite a sub-.300 OBP because he ran faster than just about anyone and played a strong center field. Bud Harrelson and Mark Belanger couldn’t hit a lick but played every day they were healthy because they were stellar-fielding shortstops, executed bunts and both sides of the hit-and-run, and rarely made fundamental mistakes. I could go on and on, but you get the gist — to win in MLB today, a team can’t have flawed players. Maybe it can’t find a Belanger or a Harrelson to play shortstop, but at the very least it needs to find a Craig Reynolds. Maybe it can’t fill 1B with a Kingman or a Keith Hernandez, but it can get by with a Dan Driessen — someone who may not be a star, or have a spectacular tool, but can ably execute every aspect of the game for which he’s responsible.
In my mind, you can’t dismiss or defend one piece of the Mets’ biggest problem — which is having flawed players at every position other than third base, center field, and catcher. And I might be generous or optimistic in assuming that Travis d’Arnaud is the answer behind the plate, and Lagares/den Dekker will ably fill center field (not to mention the pitching staff looking acceptable enough to compete in ’14); perhaps this is a rare moment of cynicism falling by the wayside.
First base, second base, shortstop, left field, and right field — together — are the Mets’ most glaring problem. As a whole. It’s a package. For the Mets to compete for the postseason in 2014, all five spots need to be addressed and improved considerably over what they have currently — there is no “most” or “least.”
Your thoughts? Sound off in the comments.
Well said. Murph not quite ARod but he really is a lightning rod in Metsville. He is the poster child for Mets baseball the last 5 years. Now, I think Murphy is a valuable player as a supersub type, playing 3x a week and as a PH vs RHP. For those that like stats and enthusiasm, he looks like a plus player. However, at .735 OPS and minus defense and baserunning, he is not a plus player. Those seduced by his total SB and SB% are being very mislead. He is not a bad baserunner, he is a really bad baserunner, and as noted many times by you and others, his defense is much much worse than stats represent due to many mishaps that cannot be captured on a scorecard. Add to this that he is a .600 OPS player vs LHP, and it is not hard to see that he is part of the problem and not part of the solution. That is not to see he needs to be bounced. As a bench player, he can be a plus player and solid contributor to a playoff caliber team, and hopefully that will be his role on the 2014 Mets if he is not dealt for a better player.
I am personally a huge fan of the job Sandy Alderson has done in stockpiling high-reward talent, but while the pitching pipeline looks solid there are no impact position players anywhere near the major leagues. This is a huge problem when you have as many holes to fill as the Mets. The injuries to Harvey and (potentially) Wheeler should highlight the fact that you cannot have enough young pitching talent in the system, which makes me leery of trading any arms away even to get an impact bat especially one with an injury history attached to it like a Tulowitzki or a Stanton.
Unfortunately, the best bet for a sustained run of success may be to sign a bunch of veterans, hope they catch lightning in the bottle with another Marlon Byrd, and trust that Lagares will learn to hit a little better, d’Arnaud will continue to improve, and down the line the Cecchinis, the Nimmos, et al take the next step and become impact players at the Major League level over the next few years.
It more or less goes hand in hand with another of my favorite internet lines: “straw-man” defense.
Would love to grab something for him while we still can this winter. Though, as always, this is not to say we should simply give him away.
I understand your point and I agree with your assessment of Murph. However, given the fact that I don’t think the Mets will be able to solve all their problems in one off-season, I do believe you have to prioritize the team’s needs.
To me, SS is a bigger problem because neither Quintanilla nor Tejada are close to major league average, whereas Murph is. Yes, I want to upgrade at 2B but SS is my priority.
Would I trade Murph? In a heartbeat if I could get fair value.
The same priority would be in place at 1B and OF. They are all holes, but some are deeper than others.
So sure, if Murphy was in Atlanta instead of Uggla, they likely wouldn’t be any worse off, but that’s because Murphy wouldn’t be playing 154 games for them. He’d be playing 100 to 130, and probably not all full games. Uggla’s defense is below average, but it’s not as bad as Murphy — particularly when you take into consideration issues that don’t show up anywhere in boxscore nor “advanced metrics,” such as being in the right place for a cutoff. I also don’t think Uggla makes as many boneheaded mistakes on the bases — in fact, I think there are few people in baseball as dumb on the bases as Dan Murphy. (OK, maybe Angel Pagan).
But in the end, we are pretty much in agreement. Bottom line is that the Mets stink, and have many holes to fill.
I agree with this approach in concept, but usually not all the choices are available at the same time. Offseason markets come and go, and change throughout ther winter. Alderson cannot afford to gamble, and he cannot afford to wait and let markets pass him by. If he really does have money (wink) and really does intend to spend it to field a comeptitve 2014 team (wink wink), he is going to have to set his priorities and contingencies and act decisively (wink wink wink). Hopefully, he can complete his highest priorities by the end of the winter meetings, and then utilize your approach of lowest cost options (in prospects) by filling in the remaining holes based upon how the market evolves.
Choo – >.850 OPS
Murphy – ~,725 OPS
Wright – ~.850 OPS
Pence – >.800 OPS
Duda – >.750 OPS
d’Arnaud – ~.750 OPS (once he gets comfortable?)
Lagares/den Dekker – ~.625 OPS
Puello/Tejada/Q – ~.600 OPS
This lineup will have ample table-setters and RBI producers. This roster will only cost the Mets ~$70mm to put together ahead of 2015’s better free-agent class and a possible healthy Harvey post-surgery (if that ends up happening). Then, you can go big to get Hanley Ramirez in 2015 for $20mm/year and possibly Billy Butler for $10-$15/year at 1B. Then, you’d have close to $100mm payroll but a top-to-bottom stud lineup with a rotation that would be one of the best in baseball (and cheapest).
I also think that projecting a .750 OPS for d’Arnaud in 2014 is insane. Hopefully he’ll get there someday, but we’ve seen that there will be growing pains. With a less productive #6, your lineup really relies on the #5 guy.
I’d switch Duda and Murph. Yeah, Duda can clog the bases, but he gets on more than Murph, and Murph can drive in people with singles from the #5 spot.
Overall it’s an okay lineup, not great, and teams win with lineups like this when they have good pitching and defense. CF and 3B appear to be the only defensive strengths here, though every position should be adequate (except maybe SS). The pitching probably needs a healthy Harvey plus a good new middle of the rotation guy and late-inning reliever. That might make us a WC contender. Hmm…
Not Philadelphia, though. So there’s that. But such “victories” ring kind of hollow these days. Kind of like the hollow achievement of finishing third this year.
I like Murphy. I really do. The job he’s done has been beyond admirable. However, there is no way on earth a team with him at 2b is ever going to be a post-season threat. As you state, strong defense up the middle is a hallmark of successful teams. The near future of the Mets rests heavily rely on starting pitching. You can’t follow through on that if you’re OK with leading the universe in infield singles.
Murphy is fantastic for what the Mets are today. For what I want to see them be in the future, he’s a bat without a position.
It would be an extraordinary turn of events to get two players as good as either Beltran or Delgado, but with a couple more good bats in the lineup, marginal players like Murphy and Duda would supplement the offense just fine.
I’m not a crazy person; I know the odds of this happening are slim. But your contention that the Mets can’t win with Murphy is off base; they absolutely can. He just can’t be valued as a critical path to success.
You may be confusing the cause and effect when I say “there is no way on earth a team with him at 2b is ever going to be a post-season threat.” It’s not that Murphy at 2nd makes you lose. It’s that the biggest reason for keeping him there is the kind of horrendous lack of offense at other positions that keeps a team out of the playoffs.
In addition, some of the free agents (ex: Pence) may want to stay with their present club.
DanB, the argument of prioritizing by the solution is not necessarily in conflict with prioritizing by the problem. You do the latter first, but keep an open mind on opportunities that arise to help solve other problems. It’s a case of being flexible and having a wide focus.
You are spot on on the price tags of Cho and Pence. The combination of supply and demand combined with an injection of new TV money will push those annual avg salaries much higher, and on top of that the Mets will need to overpay to recruit a hitter to a losing team at Citifield. Nonetheless, it still may be a better approach than parting with a load of prospects. Lastly on James’ suggestion, no way they will move Lagares or Den Dekker from CF for Choo. Choo is a bad fielding CF, he will play a corner.
Murphy has some talent with the bat, and he’s not getting the most out of it. If there’s one constant that’s pervaded the Mets from 2007 till now, it’s “underachieving”. Replace Murphy with, say, David Eckstein in his prime, and you have a different sort of team. Perhaps an outsider would look at a 13th round draft pick holding down an MLB job and call him an over-achiever, but having watched the guy hit much better in the past, I can’t agree.
Who was the last Mets hitter we’ve seen bring the intense focus on every pitch and truly get the most out of his ability? On the mound, we’ve seen it from Pedro and Santana and Dickey and Harvery, but at the plate, I dunno, maybe LoDuca? Wright in the second half of 2007 and the first half of 2012?
Anyway, if some team out there needs a 3B to hit 6th and drive in its middle-of-the-order guys with some singles, I bet Murphy would be a great fit, and hopefully they’ll give us something useful back.
If I had to pick one problem for the Mets to solve, I’d say “cleanup hitter”. Most other teams seem better off in that department. It should be possible to upgrade.
Shortstop is next. Should we trade Syndergaard for the Cubs’ Javier Baez? Both guys dominated at A+ and AA in their age 20 seasons.
But, beyond that this was my original thought process. Sign a single free agent this year (possibly Pence or Choo), especially if Harvey ends up missing 2014. Selling point is that 2014 we’ll be competitive for the playoffs. 2015 we’ll compete for the World Series. In 2015, we watch as the last $7mm of Jason Bay’s extended pay system comes off the books, you try to get Ike Davis to try out for first basemen of the future one more year or trade him after 2014. Then you go after talent in 2015 including Butler, Ramirez and possibly either Nick Markakis (assuming he rebounds after this season next year) or Colby Rasmus for the outfield. Again, selling point is the pitching depth and pieces coming together on the every-day side of things.
Lineup is then:
Best In-house Shortstop
2015 is Go For it All Team:
Syndergaard (Called up in 2014)
Montero (Called up in 2014)
Could also contemplate trading 2nd year of Arbitration Gee and Duda/Davis or both Duda & Davis to Toronto for Jose Bautista or send them to Colorado for Carlos Gonzalez. Could also trade Hefner or Montero for prospects to back fill. Issue is that my first approach takes our salaries up to $70-$75mm (with the inflation you point out wisely for Choo and Pence, it could be $80+mm easily). But, 2015 team in first case still ends up around $100-$110mm. In this second case, you’re probably looking at $120-$130mm, easily. Not sure if Wilpons can afford that. Just something to think through as Alderson was brought in to try to grow as many wins as possible at the lowest possible cost. And, despite what they say publicly about ability to spend in future years, that’s fairly obvious.
Even if they do go after Choo/Pence, aren’t there at least a dozen other teams in the mix making offers?
Gee and Duda/Davis for Bautista or CarGo. I’m not seeing it, unless Harvey/Wheeler are thrown into the deal.
If I could offer one clarification, however, it’s that I never implied that Murph was “the least of the Mets problems.” However, offense at first and the corner OF positions are far more critical to their eventual success. With two impact players at minimum – please, don’t ask me where they come from, or who whom, or how much – Murphy would provide adequate-to-good support in the #7 slot (or, if he ups his OPB to .350, #2).
To me, it’s blindingly clear that 1B/LF/RF are by far the MOST of the Mets problems. If Murph is trade bait for such acquisitions, great; let Turner/Flores figure out 2B next year; they won’t do much worse (Joe J and argon say better, and I won’t argue with them). But he won’t be a detriment to their success if they somehow find a way to fill the other vacancies.
I get your argument concerning Murph and the Mets’ needs. However, I do feel that SS should go to the top of the list. It’s considered more of a “skill” position than 1B or OF. It’s really hard to see any success in the Mets future with Quintanilla/Tejada at SS. It’s usually easier to find an OF or 1B.
As for qualifying offers, agree with view. Question is value of the draft spot relative to short-term horizon to win. I think we’d all agree that losing a draft pick hurts, but given I work in oil & gas, the key is always that the value of a proven asset outweighs considerably the value of a prospect. I agree that others will be putting offers on the table, and the Mets will pay up, which goes back to why the Mets would most likely pursue Option 2 of my two long posts (i.e. one big piece this year and go all-in for 2015).
One thing I always forget to mention is the value of trading one of the starting arms as the get more expensive through the next few years:
Gee will cost $3mm next year
Hefner will cost $3mm in 2015
As for bats, could utilize Lagares, Flores, den Dekker, Duda, Davis in various trades as well to fill out the roster appropriately.
All good trade pieces in the coming years.
But, still feel like 2014 is another step on the rebuilding path and 2015 is the real year to get excited for.
Remember, a year and a half ago, Duda, Tejada, Nieuwenhuis, Edgin and Valdespin all could have been awesome! Alderson mentioned them as reasons to expect an improved team. Who’s next? Probably Lagares, den Dekker, deGrom, Familia and Black.
He isn’t really a 2B, fine, but until other holes are filled, so what? Someone on another blog said he would work on a “world series worthy team” or some such. Yeah. Even there, the Braves might be one. If they had Murphy, they would survive. He also might have better coaching elsewhere too to deal with some of his bad decisions.
The team needs a 1B, SS and two corner outfielders, though they might ‘make do’ with what they have on one or two of these. They probably need at least one more starter. They probably can use another bullpen arm. They have an acceptable 2B who is a decent hitter, especially if had more protection.
If he can be traded for something useful w/o just opening up a hole, fine, trade him. He’s not Wright, he’s dispensable. But, yeah, a guy who gives the team spirit (though some don’t care about that — it’s fantasy baseball, interchangeable parts), became a perfectly serviceable 2B after just shifting to the role what two years ago?, would be a useful hitter on some other team (if not, talk of trading is stupid anyway) etc. is “the least of their problems.”
Harvey’s health is a problem. Making sure Parnell comes back. Getting a few more bats. Murphy is not. And, why not keep him just to have someone to sneer at? Seems that is a value for some people.