Daniel Murphy Isn't the Problem or the Answer for the New York Mets

Michael Mandelkern@@metsonmymindContributor IIIApril 2, 2014

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy.
New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy.Carlos Osorio

The New York Mets are in need of a reliable first baseman, shortstop and bullpen. Daniel Murphy is not the most pressing concern, but he is not necessarily the solution at second base either.

As the front office remains indecisive on whether he has a future with the team, Murphy’s price tag will only go up. He should have already been offered a multiyear deal or been traded by now.

Daniel Murphy was signed to a one-year, $2.925 million contract in 2013 to avoid arbitration for the first time in his career. He is making $5.7 million this season on another one-year deal.

Murphy is a doubles machine with 78 doubles over the past two seasons. He achieved career highs in 2013 with 13 home runs and 78 runs batted in. When he hit .320 in 2011, he had just six HR and 49 RBI, although in 391 at-bats. His increased production has come at the expense of his batting average and on-base percentage, which have declined since 2011.

Although Murphy finishes his seasons hitting for a high average, he is notoriously streaky. He can be an automatic out throughout several consecutive games but then spray the ball to all parts of the field throughout another stretch. 

Murphy is a clutch hitter who is aggressive and expands the strike zone. His batting average is .322 with runners in scoring position over the past three seasons.

But he does not get on base at a high clip, with just a .319 OBP last season. Taking pitches and drawing walks is not part of his game.

Expecting him to change his plate approach and suddenly play solid defense is not realistic.

Murphy has proven to be a defensive liability. He posted a -1.5 defensive wins above replacement in 150 games at second base in 2013, a decline from his -0.8 DWAR through 138 games at second base in 2012.

Infielder Wilmer Flores has a brief opportunity to showcase his talents at second base while Murphy is on paternity leave. Similar to Murphy early in his career, Flores is most valued for his offense but does not have a set defensive position.

Flores is a 22-year-old cheaper option who is not eligible for arbitration until 2017. Taking a chance on him would allow the Mets to allocate funds towards more pressing needs.

Even though he only played 27 MLB games in his big league debut last season, ZiPS projects him to hit .263 this season with 14 home runs and 79 RBI. 

He batted .238 with two HR and nine RBIs in 42 spring training at-bats.

"I think I did a pretty good job, a pretty decent job at short," said Flores to ESPN Mets beat writer Adam Rubin on March 24. "I feel great. I'll go to Vegas and play some more short. I don't know how much, but I know I'm going to play short." 

Or first, second or third base. Maybe the outfield? Management has played their athletes out of position before.

The Mets know what kind of player they have in Murphy. If the team wants to commit to him, they should offer an extension. If not, he could be a potential trade-deadline target. Perhaps it is time for general manager Sandy Alderson to lower his asking price.