New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, batting .357 with five home runs in seven playoff games, is evoking memories of postseason heroes of the recent past, such as David Freese, Cody Ross and Scott Spiezio, as a good, second-tier starter having a Reggie Jackson-like October. Murphy enters Game 3 of the NLCS Tuesday with home runs in four consecutive games ... after homering in back-to-back games just once in his career. Funny things happen in the postseason.
As you've probably heard, Murphy will be a free agent after this season. The Mets have an excellent second base prospect in Dilson Herrera, a 21-year-old who hit .327/.382/.511 at Triple-A Las Vegas and has received a couple cups of coffee with the Mets the past two seasons. If Herrera can't handle the challenge, Wilmer Flores can play there with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, assuming a full recovery from his broken leg.
The Mets would be wise to let Murphy walk and not be seduced by his hot streak. The New York Daily News reported Sunday that team sources said the club doesn't intend to bring Murphy back. But do the Mets at least give Murphy a qualifying offer, which is set at $15.8 million this offseason? If the Mets offer that, Murphy becomes less attractive to teams who would lose a draft pick if they sign him.
There's no doubt Murphy has been a solid and consistent performer with the Mets -- he has hit between .281 and .291 each of the past four seasons -- and he can play second, third and first. But beneath the solid batting averages and excellent contact skills is a player who doesn't have a ton of value. He doesn't have the range to be an asset defensively at second, he doesn't draw many walks, and he lacks the power you'd prefer at first or third base. His WAR the past four seasons: 1.5, 1.8, 1.9, 1.4. He's OK, he's useful. He's not a star.
Murphy is making $8 million this season. On the free-agent market, each Win Above Replacement goes for about $6.5 million, give or take, depending on your methodology. If Murphy remains a 1.5 to 2.0 WAR player, he might get a raise on his $8 million and a multi-year deal.
It's easy to suggest some dumb team will be seduced by Murphy's big October, but I doubt that's the case. Front offices are smart these days. They understand Murphy's limitations and that he'll be turning 31 next year as a second baseman with poor range.
He'll have his suitors, though. His low-strikeout game profiles well in this age of strikeouts. He can play multiple positions. The New York Post's Joel Sherman suggested Murphy could receive a deal along the lines of what Chase Headley received from the Yankees entering his age-31 season: 4 years, $52 million. Headley, however, was a much better player than Murphy: 2.8, 6.3, 3.4 and 3.5 WAR in his four seasons before free agency (a similar hitter, with one big season, but a much better defender). I don't think Murphy will get that much.
The New York media is trying to sell the Murphy-to-the-Yankees idea, especially if they don't believe in Robert Refsnyder as their second baseman of the future. But Murphy's versatility wouldn't be as valuable to the Yankees, with Headley locked in at third and Greg Bird ready to take over at first once Mark Teixeira's contract runs out after 2016.
Sure, the Yankees are a possibility, but I don't think they top the list. Some other possibilities:
1. Los Angeles Angels. They were 23rd in the majors in wOBA from their second basemen. Johnny Giavotella was worth just 1.0 WAR and lacks defensive chops. Murphy would provide a left-handed bat around Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, as well as an option at third base.
2. Kansas City Royals. Omar Infante was a disaster in 2015, but he's signed through 2017 for $7.75 and $8 million (plus a $2 million buyout). Would the Royals be willing to eat Infante's contract? Maybe not, but they love contact guys, and Alex Gordon might be departing as a free agent, possibly opening up some payroll.
3. Cleveland Indians. They could move All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis to center field -- where he played in college -- and give second base to Murphy or play Murphy at third base if they don't believe in Giovanny Urshela, who didn't show much in his 81-game trial.
4. Chicago White Sox. The White Sox were 30th in the majors in OPS at second base and 30th at third base. So, yeah, Murphy would fit here.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates. Pedro Alvarez is still two years from free agency, but his move to first base was a disaster on defense. He didn't even start the wild-card game. The Pirates could dump him as he starts to get more expensive in arbitration and go with Murphy.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers. Howie Kendrick is a free agent, and the Dodgers have 21-year-old second-base prospect Jose Peraza, who they acquired from the Braves in July. If they don't re-sign Kendrick, Murphy is a possibility.
Anyway, that's all fodder to worry about in a couple weeks. For now, let's enjoy this ride Murphy is on.