New York Mets' Daniel Murphy Deserves Better: Which Teams Could Use Him?

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New York Mets' Daniel Murphy Deserves Better: Which Teams Could Use Him?
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The New York Mets are in a strange predicament with Daniel Murphy. They like him, but they have nowhere to put him.

Murphy was drafted by the Mets and is considered a well-respected, softly-spoken homegrown player.

One problem is that his defense is below par and his bat isn't strong enough to warrant him being in the starting lineup.

Injuries aside, the second problem is that he has no real identity. Is he a corner infielder, a middle infielder or an outfielder?

Murphy has been a fringe player during his professional career with the Mets, and the rumors, however unfounded, that the club will go with Luis Hernandez at second base, casts a further cloud over his role.

The fact remains that even if Hernandez does not win the job, Murphy still has only a one-in-four chance of making the Opening Day lineup.

Sure, they might keep him on the 25-man roster as a bench player if, for example, Brad Emaus gets the vote, but I think Murphy deserves better.

The Mets haven't done anything wrong with the exception of trying to reconvert him every year, but this is more a case of the wrong player at the wrong time.

Sure, the team could have left him as a third baseman, but with David Wright blocking his way to the Majors, what good would that be?

Similarly, trying to convert him to second base was a reasonable suggestion before Luis Castillo came into the picture. The outfield experiment, on the other hand, was a farce for all concerned. Let's leave it at that.

But he could have been a very real first base option in 2010 had he not been injured.

It's bittersweet because his injury paved the way for Ike Davis to come through, who's been a blessing for the team. Davis has been one of the best rookies to show up in many years, and while I feel for Murphy, I'm ecstatic about the future that Ike has in front of him. The boy can rake.

I like Murphy as a player, and it's clear that he has supporters in the front office, but there's just no space for him. Murphy could be a starter on another team and I feel it's best for the Mets, and for Murphy, to part ways.

Hypothetically, what's the best season he could put together?

If 2009 is anything to go by, then 12 homers and 63 RBI is a solid baseline. Add in the .313 batting average he posted a year earlier in a third of the season and the stolen base potential (14 in 19 attempts) he showed in the Minors in '08 and you're on your way to seeing the type of player he could be if everything went his way.

Of course, the batting average would likely be much lower and there's no evidence to show he would run wild at the Major League level, but the skills are there at least.

He's also just 25 years old, so he's entering his prime years. An offensive boom isn't particularly likely, but the potential for growth is certainly there, especially with his power numbers. Eighteen homers from 550 at-bats is very, very reachable.

A 16-homer, 75 RBI, .285 season would be well worthy of consideration by a third of the teams in the National League alone.

As for his defense—well, it may not be as bad as everyone says if you use him correctly.

Over a full season at first base, Murphy would make around one more error every month than Ike Davis. That's looking at Murphy's defensive numbers from 2009 and Ike's from last season. Considering how much praise Ike gets for his glove, that's not too shabby at all.

Yes, things are a lot worse when you look at Murphy's fielding stats at third base or in the outfield, but given time I think there's still a chance for improvement. Maybe not a lot, but some. He's already made a big leap with his footwork around the bag at second base and I really believe he could be serviceable with enough repetitions. Leave the outfield well alone.

Growth at second or refinement at first isn't going to happen overnight, but if teams consider him a first baseman first, a utility infielder second and a makeshift emergency outfielder third, he's not that much of a liability.

The Mets are fortunate to have Davis at first again in 2011, so could Murphy find a job in another NL city?

To find him a home, we need a team with a poor first baseman and question marks at second. Or a downright stinker incumbent at second base.

 

NL East

Philly is obviously well taken care of with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and Atlanta is pretty well set with Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla.

Similarly, the Nats are also okay with free-swinging Adam LaRoche and converted shortstop Danny Espinosa. They both have a better power bat than Murphy, although I'm really uneasy about paying LaRoche $16 million over two years.

He's your third-highest paid player? Wow.

For the monetary value alone I'd at least consider Murphy, but looking at the money Washington has been giving out this offseason, I'd say they don't really care. Plus, Murphy is less valuable when you consider Jerry Hairston is there primarily as a backup infielder.

Then there's the Marlins.

Gaby Sanchez is the likely starting first baseman and Omar Infante will probably begin at second.

Murphy could fit in perfectly there.

If the Marlins don't care about a big power bat at first, which they apparently don't, then Murphy is on a par with Sanchez and a big upgrade over 29-year-old Infante. Plus, he'd be a left-handed bat in the lineup.

Infante is being paid $2.5 million, so it would save the Fish more than $2 million in salary, and did I mention that Infante can't field, either?

 

NL Central

If no-hitting Skip Schumaker is your everyday second baseman, then Murphy definitely has a shot in St. Louis. The same applies for fellow left-hander and first baseman Brett Wallace in Houston and middle infielder Blake Dewitt in Chicago.

Murphy could easily replace any one of those guys and he's not a million miles behind the 34-year-old Lyle Overbay in Pittsburgh.

You can forget about Milwaukee and Cincy. Fielder and Weeks are running the infield for the Brewers and the outfield is pretty stacked as well. With the Reds, the Votto-Phillips combination is as good as it gets.

 

NL West

There are a couple options in the west, but not many.

Murphy wouldn't fit in LA, and there's no space in Arizona. The Dodgers have James Loney and Juan Uribe, who conveniently also doubles up as a shortstop and third base replacement. The D-backs have a mashing Russell Branyan, health permitting and a decent second baseman in Kelly Johnson.

Colorado is also a little crowded, on second thought, especially with Todd Helton and Ty Wigginton at first. But does anyone think Jose Lopez is that good at second? The downside is that Murphy isn't that much better than him to warrant changing things up there.

However, two names from the reigning San Francisco Giants should give Murphy hope: Freddy Sanchez and Mike Fontenot.

These two clowns are in their 30s and they'll be lucky to hit 10 homers between them. They have no pop, they have average speed that they don't really use anymore and they're pretty poor hitters.

The story is the same in San Diego. Brad Hawpe and Orlando Hudson are 31 and 33 years old and neither have great skill sets. Hawpe probably won't even make it through 350 at-bats and Hudson, also an injury risk, is certainly only average with the bat. It's funny that so many Mets fans wanted Hudson when Murphy was there all along.

 

Conclusion

So there you are. Murphy would be a great fit for the Marlins, the Giants and the Padres and he could fill a need at first base in Houston or at second in St. Louis or Chicago. That's without even considering the American League.

The best part is that there are very few prospects coming through these teams at those positions. In the case of the Marlins, there are few prospects altogether.

Florida does have Christian Yelich in the long term, but he's years away. San Diego's Anthony Rizzo isn't that far away, but I don't think he'll feature in 2011. Still, he could be starting in 2012, which makes a move for Murphy less likely.  

Even discounting the Padres, that still leaves five suitors in the National League alone. 

He's cheap, he's a good option at first and a serviceable option with upside at second.

He has pop, and while I like him best at first, I really think he could be a top-eight second baseman in the NL given a full time job. I also think he'll outproduce any second base options the Mets go with.

Forget about the outfield, because he's not made for that. The Mets clearly don't have any real plan for him, so give him a chance to shine elsewhere.

He's never going to be a superstar, but he's good enough to help the right team with the right need. I'd hate to see him languishing in the Minors again in 2011 or misused as the second lefty pinch hitter off the bench.

He deserves better than what the Mets can offer him right now, so let's do both parties a favor. You never know, he might just bring us back something in return.

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