Joel Sherman, long-time beat writer and baseball columnist for the New York Post, recently tweeted that the New York Mets have received calls from the Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, and San Diego Padres regarding a potential trade involving Daniel Murphy. He went on to expound on the interest of only one of those teams, the Tigers, as he noted that the Mets are interested in Detroit’s Andy Dirks as a “potential alternative” to current New York center fielder Angel Pagan. He later said that the Tigers are interested in Murphy as an alternative to Brandon Inge and a versatile option at other positions.
In his professional career, Murphy, who will be 27 in April, has played first, second, third, and left field, but has never excelled at any spot defensively. Dirks, just younger than Murphy, on the other hand, is primarily an outfielder. A swap of the two makes sense because of their respective team’s roster construction; in addition to their projected starting outfielders, Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly are capable of playing the outfield for the Tigers. The Mets, on the other hand, even with the departure of Jose Reyes now official, have a few options for the middle infield in Ruben Tejada, Justin Turner, and Reese Havens while David Wright and Ike Davis are their incumbents at third and first base respectively.
Murphy’s excellent left-handed bat is what makes him appealing to the Tigers. For his short major league career (313 games to date), he has a triple-slash line of .292/.343/.441. While Sherman seemed to theorize Murphy would be a replacement for Inge, it seems more likely that the two would become platoon partners while Kelly’s role would be minimized further. Detroit could take advantage of Murphy’s .298/.352/.441 career line against right-handed pitchers while utilizing Inge’s .265/.342/.458 career line against left-handers.
The most troubling thing about Murphy is his injury history. He has suffered season-ending MCL tears twice in the last two years. Both injuries occurred while he was playing second base. Partial blame for the most recent one, in August of this year, could be assigned to the fact that he was being asked to float between three positions–never settling in at any. The first, which he suffered in June of last year, came during his second Triple-A game as part of a rehab stint following a right knee sprain sustained during spring training–that sprain caused him to lose out to Ike Davis in the race for the Mets’ starting first base job that spring.
As I read more about his defense, I’m finding that he’s apparently serviceable in the infield, but not great by any stretch of the imagination. His range is lacking and he’s been prone to mental mistakes. In his defense, he’s never really had an extended opportunity at any position and he could actually be an average fielder at second or third given significant time at either.
Murphy provides very little power (20 career home runs) and minimal speed (nine career stolen bases), but he limits strikeouts and has a knack for getting on base consistently. He would easily be an offensive upgrade if he can stay healthy.
If it only takes Dirks to acquire him, or even if Dave Dombrowski had to throw in an extra minor leaguer, I think this would be a solid move–probably for both teams involved.