According to rumors, Daniel Murphy is on the trade block, and he has suitors. The San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays have apparently shown interest in the New York Mets‘ second baseman, but should the Mets trade him?
Murphy is enjoying his best all-around season in the major leagues, batting .298 with an improved on-base percentage of .353. Last year, despite a .286 batting average and 13 home runs, Murphy’s OBP was a shade under .320. It really doesn’t matter how you get on base, whether by hit or walk or act of God, but Murphy’s increase in walks this year simply gives him another offensive weapon. He’s still never going to win a Gold Glove at second base, but he hits well enough to make up for his adequate defense. This year, Murphy is the Mets’ best hitter. Since 2011, when healthy, he’s been the team’s second-most reliable hitter behind David Wright. Why would they trade him, then?
Murphy is making $5.7 million this year. Next year is his final year of arbitration, and he’ll certainly get a raise. Team owners Fred Wilpon and Jeff Wilpon, along with Saul Katz, still appear to be in the mode of saving over spending, despite what they’d tell you. They spent more money than usual during the offseason on free agents, which is a good sign, but at $84 million, the Mets’ payroll is the lowest its been since 2000. In order to keep Murphy, they may have to pay him significantly more, or sign him to a long-term deal.
Trading Murphy now would signal that he Mets are playing for next year. They have Wilmer Flores waiting in the wings, but with his irregular play, it’s impossible to tell if he can hit major league pitching as well as he hit minor league pitching. The Mets obviously like the farm systems of Toronto and San Francisco. They’ve already acquired Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard from the Jays and Zack Wheeler from the Giants. They may keep trying to mine the same vein.
The Mets are 5.5 games out of first place as of this writing; on June 24, that’s too soon to give up on the season. Heck, with two wild cards and three divisions, July 31 — the non-waiver trade deadline — is too soon to give up on the season if you’re close. That’s why the Mets should be in no hurry to trade Murphy. More and more teams are waiting until August to make trades, even though they have to put their players on trade waivers. That’s when the Mets traded Marlon Byrd and John Buck last year.
If the Mets are 15 games out by the end of July, then trading Murphy for a nice return makes sense, as long as they don’t trade him just to trade him. If they’re still in sniffing distance of the NL East leaders, then why not wait until August to make a move?