Scouting The Trade Market: Daniel MurphyBy
The Yankees have an awful lot roster questions to answer this winter, including a bunch on the infield. Robinson Cano is a free agent, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter missed all of 2013 due to injury for all intents and purposes, and Alex Rodriguez may or may not be suspended in the coming weeks. There’s not a single sure thing on the infield at the moment.
New York has reportedly agreed to re-sign Brendan Ryan as insurance for Jeter, but they’ll need more help than that. They need to figure out a plan at third base regardless of what happens with A-Rod because even if his suspension is overturned, they can’t count on him to stay healthy for a full season. The Yankees have reportedly shown interest in bringing back Eric Chavez to provide depth on the corner infield spots, but the trade market could offer some help too.
According to Andy Martino, the Mets are open to trading infielder Daniel Murphy, mostly because his style of hitting doesn’t fit the organizational philosophy. I’m guessing this is a “if someone makes a nice offer, we’ll move him” situation rather than a “oh my goodness we have to dump this guy” situation. Either way, should the Yankees even have interest? Let’s dig in.
- Murphy, 28, is an excellent contact hitter who consistently hits to all fields produces solid batting averages. He hit .286 with a .315 BABIP in 697 plate appearances this past season and is a career .290 hitter with a .320 BABIP in a little more than 2,400 plate appearances as a big leaguer. His strikeout (13.6% in 2013 and 13.0% career) and contact (88.5% in 2013 and 88.2% career) rates are both well-above-average.
- Believe it or not, Murphy is a borderline elite base-runner. He stole a career-high 23 bases in 26 attempts (88.5%) in 2013 and is 42-for-56 (75.0%) in his career. Murphy also took the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) an insane 61% of the time this past season (49% career). Some nice hidden value there.
- Murphy offers some versatility. He came up through the minors as a third baseman but moved to second in deference to David Wright. The Mets have also had him dabble in left field and at first base. The left field thing was a disaster but he can play the three non-shortstop infield positions in a pinch.
- Matt Swartz projects Murphy to earn a reasonable $5.8M in his second trip through arbitration this winter. He will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2015 before becoming a free agent in two offseasons.
- The contact and batting average comes with no walks and little power. Murphy drew a walk in just 4.6% of plate appearances in 2013 (6.1% career) and his career-high 13 homers came with a below-average .129 ISO (.134 career). Yankee Stadium will help as a left-handed batter, but not a ton because he goes the other way so often.
- Although his average doesn’t really suffer, Murphy does have a big platoon split. He hit .273/.292/.324 (73 wRC+) against lefties and .292/.331/.459 (122 wRC+) against righties this past season, and for his career it’s .274/.301/.375 (86 wRC+) against lefties and .295/.344/.441 (115 wRC+) against righties.
- Murphy can play all over the field, but that doesn’t make him good defensively. The left field experiment was a disaster, as I said, and the various defensive stats (-26 DRS, -13.3 UZR, -12 Total Zone) indicate he stinks at second. The sample sizes at first and third are too small to take any numbers seriously, but his defensive reputation isn’t good.
- Injuries have been a bit of a problem. Murphy missed just about all Spring Training this past season with an intercostal strain, and he also missed close to two months in both 2010 and 2011 with MCL sprains in his knees — right knee in 2010, left in 2011.
The Yankees and Mets have not made a trade involving a player of Murphy’s caliber since the David Justice-Robin Ventura swap in December 2001. They’ve gotten together for a couple of minor deals involving relievers (Mike Stanton, Armando Benitez) since then, but nothing major. This isn’t a Yankees-Red Sox thing though — I don’t think either Brian Cashman or Sandy Alderson would balk at a trade that made sense for their team just because it involved dealing with their crosstown rival.
Infielders traded two years prior to free agency in recent years include Jed Lowrie (Astros to Athletics), Aaron Hill, and Mike Aviles (Blue Jays to Indians). Lowrie (and a reliever) was traded for six years of Chris Carter and two okay prospects. Hill was mostly a salary dump for a year and a half of Kelly Johnson. Aviles (and a prospect) was dealt for an iffy reliever. Lowrie probably fits best a comparison but it’s not perfect — he had a much longer injury history, he was more productive when healthy, and he could legitimately play shortstop. Seems like it’ll take at least two pieces to get it done though, including one that is Major League ready. That sounds like it’s in the ballpark.
The Mets have a bunch of needs, specifically in the corner outfield and bullpen. They’d also need a second baseman to replace Murphy. The Yankees could offer a smorgasbord of fringy big league ready guys like Zoilo Almonte (outfielder!), Dellin Betances or Preston Claiborne (reliever!), and David Adams or Corban Joseph (second baseman!), something like that, but that package is more quantity than quality. Who knows, maybe Alderson would take it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Murphy makes a ton of sense for the Yankees as a part-time corner infielder/DH would could step right into the lineup everyday at first, second, or third in case of injury, but finding common ground with the Mets figures to be tough.