With postseason hero Daniel Murphy signing in Washington, will the New York Mets be able to replace his bat in the lineup?
Following the acquisition of Neil Walker, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that playoff hero Daniel Murphy would not be returning to the Mets next year. His signing by the Washington Nationals, on a three-year deal worth $37.5 million, just makes his departure official. With a new second baseman in tow, and their old second baseman on their division rivals’ team, the New York Mets now must move on from Murphy and focus on 2016.
However, will the New York Mets miss Daniel Murphy in 2016?
Based on his playoff performance, it would seem Murphy would be a hard player to replace. In the 2015 playoffs, Murphy played in 14 games, hitting .328/.391/.724 with seven home runs and 11 RBIs. Murphy may have made some defensive mistakes over the course of the postseason, including some critical ones in the World Series, but his offensive value was certainly the best on the team, and will be hard to replace come next season.
With that being said, Murphy was not the same player during the regular season that he was in the postseason.
While Murphy played out of his mind throughout the playoffs, he was more or less a slightly above average player for a majority of the regular season. Murphy played in 130 games during the regular season, hitting .281/.322/.449 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs, a wRC+ of 110 and a 2.5 WAR. Compare that to his postseason performance, and it is pretty apparent that Murphy was a mere mortal during the regular season. Obviously teams like to have players who rise to the occasion in the postseason, but Murphy’s superior performance cannot be expected again in the future.
For some comparison of what to expect from Murphy going forward, one must look no further than Fangraphs steamer projections for next season. In those projections, Murphy is projected for a batting line of .308 /.351/.440 and 10 home runs and 73 RBIs and a wRC+ of 114, good for a 2.4 WAR. These numbers are clearly an upgrade for next season overall, but Murphy is still projected to be a similar player next year.
So the Mets know what they will be replacing next season, and know who is replacing him now.
Prior to Murphy signing with the Nationals, the Mets traded LHP Jon Niese, who was likely going to be the sixth or seventh starter next season, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker. Walker finished the 2015 season with a slash line of .269/.328/.427 with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs, a wRC+ of 108 and a WAR of 2.4. By these numbers, Walker and Murphy were nearly identical players in 2015 for their respective teams.
However, the 2016 projections are where some differences arise.
While Murphy is expected to maintain his performance, and perhaps even exceed it, Walker appears due for a small amount of regression. Walker is projected for a slash line of .258/.329/.427 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs, a wRC+ of 112, and a WAR of 2.2. By these numbers, Murphy appears to be the better overall offensive player, but the differences in the two players overall seems negligible. This may be due to Walker’s defense, which isn’t necessarily good, but isn’t nearly as bad as Murphy’s defense was last year, and is expected to be next season.
Probably the most important consideration in this whole discussion about Murphy vs. Walker is the money involved.
Rather than pay Murphy $37.5 million over the next three years the Nationals will be paying him, the Mets will instead pay Walker somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to 11 million in his final year of arbitration. This saves the Mets a few million for next year, in the salary difference between the two players, and also saves the Mets an additional $26 to 27 million they will not be paying Murphy in the two seasons past this season. Add to that the $30 million they will not be paying Niese over the next three seasons, and the Mets will save around $55-60 million in the next several years for a similar player to what they had last season.
Now this all goes back to the question, will the Mets miss Murphy?
While the Mets may in fact miss Murphy, they can take comfort they got a similar player for a much cheaper price overall. The Mets will once again have a hole at second base to fill after next season, but they will be able to face that problem when it comes, with more financial flexibility thanks to the trade of Niese. The Mets traded from their pitching depth in order to acquire a similar player to Murphy, all while saving a good amount of money.
The Mets may miss Murphy, but should be just fine without him.
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