The New York Mets listened to offers for their second baseman during the offseason, and they’re listening again, 31 days before the non-waiver trade deadline.
Daniel Murphy is batting .301/.351/.417 this year, while leading the league in base hits with 101. He’s greatly improved his walk rate, which has given him a new weapon at the plate. He’s already reached base on a walk 28 times in 2014. Last season, he walked only 32 times in 697 plate appearances. In addition, he’s swiped 11 bases, and he’s on pace for his usual 12 home runs and 40 doubles. His defense, while much improved, is about as good as its going to get — which isn’t great — but it’s good enough.
So the Mets have a choice. They could trade the 29-year-old this year and try to fill a hole — at shortstop, say — or they could hang onto him. Trading him would weaken a position which is currently an offensive strength. Murphy is currently the Mets’ unquestioned second-best hitter behind David Wright, and with the Captain having a mediocre first half, Murphy is the man. If Murphy were to depart, the new second baseman would be Eric Young or Wilmer Flores. Neither of them are proven options at second. Young isn’t as much of an offensive threat as Murphy, and it’s still unknown how Flores will do at the major league level with regular playing time.
If the Mets choose to keep Murphy, they could give him a raise in his final arbitration year of 2015, which would be a one-year deal valued at about $8-9 million, or they could sign him to a long-term deal. Murphy has expressed interest in staying with New York on a four-year pact. Judging by the current market, he’d probably make $12 million or so per season. With $54 million in guaranteed money already tied up in four players for 2015, this would be a risk for the Mets. Whether the Mets are willing to spend that much on Murphy would indicate that they are less interested in payroll and more about building a winning team. Despite what some people think, that’s not up to general manager Sandy Alderson; it’s up to ownership.
Are Fred and Jeff Wilpon ready to spend money? Not the kind of reckless spending we saw when they were flush with Bernie Madoff dollars, but wise spending on important pieces of a contending team. Are they ready to bring their payroll up over $85 million if necessary, or are they still on a budget?
This year, the Mets must transition from rebuilding team to building a team. When ace right-hander Matt Harvey returns next year from Tommy John surgery (if all goes well), they must have a team around him. Part of that team should include Murphy. He’s not spectacular, but he’s about as predictable as a ballplayer can be, if you look at his recent stats. A four-year deal would lock him up through his prime years, and it wouldn’t cost a team with an average budget that much.
If the Wilpons are willing to lock up Murphy, it will be sign that they are ready to get serious. If not, we’ll know they are either unwilling to spend money or unable to spend money. And if they are unwilling, they’d better get a treasure in return for the second baseman on the trade market.