What Postseason Hero Daniel Murphy Should Be Worth on Free-Agent Market

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2015

New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy answers questions during a news conference, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in New York. The Mets will face the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Each one of Daniel Murphy's home runs this October wasn't accompanied by a cartoon cash-register sound effect, though they all probably should have been.

Murphy slugged the New York Mets to the World Series, sure. But he's also bashing himself toward a hefty free-agent payday this winter.

How hefty will it be? And how hefty should it be? Let's parse those questions.

First, it pays (get it?) to recount what the veteran infielder has accomplished in his historic postseason debut.

Murphy hit .333 with three home runs in the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. As it turns out, that was merely a prelude for the National League Championship Series, when he went 9-for-17 with four more dingers as the Mets swept the Chicago Cubs.

Overall, Murphy carries a .421 average and 1.026 postseason OPS into the World Series. And he owns an MLB record after homering in six consecutive playoff games.

Murphy set an all-time record by homering in six consecutive playoff games.
Murphy set an all-time record by homering in six consecutive playoff games.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

"I can’t explain it," Murphy said, per USA Today's Jorge L. Ortiz. "It's just such a blessing to be able to contribute to what we've been able to do."

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Murphy's done more than contribute. He's joined forces with the Mets' stable of power arms and turned New York into a genuine juggernaut. And he's transformed himself into one of the offseason's hottest commodities.

Murphy wasn't a slouch before he became the lovechild of Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth. He made his first All-Star team in 2014 and hit a career-high 14 home runs this season.

But after shining this brightly on baseball's biggest stage, Murphy has significantly upped his value.

Maybe the best recent comparison is Pablo Sandoval, a solid regular-season contributor who won World Series MVP honors with the San Francisco Giants in 2012 before inking a five-year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox last November.

Sandoval hit just .245 for Boston this year and posted a career-worst minus-0.9 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.com, so he's a cautionary tale. And he was 28 when the Red Sox signed him, while Murphy will turn 31 in April.

Still, the allure of October glory can take a good player and round him up to a legend. And legends tend to get paid.

"Obviously, he's not going to be as hot as he’s been in the postseason, but he plays positions where his power plays well," an unnamed American League general manager said of Murphy, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

Murphy could get paid extra for his postseason exploits, similar to Pablo Sandoval.
Murphy could get paid extra for his postseason exploits, similar to Pablo Sandoval.Elsa Garrison/Associated Press

That same GM cited the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels, three of the top seven MLB clubs by payroll, as potential suitors. And, he concluded, "He’s going to be sought-after and get a five-year deal at around $75 million. Maybe more."

Murphy, who got the bulk of his starts at second base but can play third and first, is part of a free-agent class that also includes analogous veterans Ian Desmond, Howie Kendrick and Ben Zobrist, whose Kansas City Royals will battle Murphy's Mets for the Commissioner's Trophy.

So the supply might be high enough to drive down the price. And New York figures to make a qualifying offer to Murphy, which would mean any other club that signed him would surrender a draft pick.

Either way, the Mets are apparently out of the running.

Despite Murphy's status as the reigning King of Queens (with apologies to Kevin James), the Mets don't intend to bring him back, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.

"He's been great, really great," an unnamed source told Ackert, "but it changes nothing."

That's a peculiar stance to take, at least from a public-relations standpoint. Yes, the Mets consider Dilson Herrera a potential replacement up the middle. And, double yes, a Murphy overpay would strain their bottom line, especially as they look to retain their young pitching nucleus.

Symbolically, though, how do you cut loose the guy who did this against NL Cy Young hopeful Jake Arrieta in Game 2 of the NLCS, with one hand to boot:

For the moment, as the Amazins charge full-steam toward their first title since 1986, it's a moot point, as Newsday's David Lennon argued:

So what if Murphy is inflating his next contract offer with every swing? Right now, his plate production is getting them that much closer to the World Series. What good would it do the Mets to suddenly whisper during the playoffs that they've reconsidered and intend to have Murphy as their second baseman for the next half-decade or so?

The Mets have other goals right now, as does Murphy.

Someone is going to open his checkbook for Daniel Murphy in a couple of months, and when he does, he'll be thinking about Murphy's hero act through the NLDS and NLCS and possibly what he's about to do for an encore in the championship round.

That may be irrational, and it could lead to a Sandoval-esque boondoggle.

But with each colossal swing, Murphy keeps the cash-register sound effects coming—and sends the doubters spinning deeper into orbit.

All statistics current as of Oct. 25 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.