Hot stove season is almost among us, and we already have teams contemplating an outrageous signing. Daniel Murphy — you may have heard of his historic playoff performance in this year’s playoffs — is hitting the market and looking for a contract that would set him up for the rest of his life. Murphy has declined the New York Mets’ qualifying offer of $15.8 million, which would have been a nearly 100 percent raise from his 2015 salary of $8 million. Murphy’s six home runs in six games is impressive, maybe the greatest run in playoff history, but when the dust settles and we have to come back to the reality of non-postseason life, is Murphy worthy of the millions he desires? Let’s take a closer look.
Murphy played in 130 games in 2015, slashing .281/.322/.449. He also hit a career high fourteen home runs. Are these the numbers of a middle of the order slugger? Probably not. His fairly pedestrian on-base percentage and lack of speed — he stole two in bases in 2015 — also leave him out of contention for the leadoff spot. Murphy is often referred to as a “professional hitter,” which means he does a lot of things in the batter’s box kind of well, but nothing spectacular.
Well, does he have good fielding at least? Actually anonymous interrogator, you might be surprised to know he is a mediocre fielder. Murphy had a .979 fielding percentage in 2015, and the advanced metrics are even less kind when evaluating his fielding performance. You might also remember in the World Series he committed two pivotal errors, as well as going 3-for-20; but hey, those six home runs, right?
Teams frequently make the mistake of seeing someone put on a massive postseason performance and then make exorbitant offers to them on the open market. We saw this happen with Pablo Sandoval, who, after hitting over .400 in the 2014 postseason, was able to secure a contract with the Boston Red Sox for $95 million over five years. In 2015 his slash line was appalling — .245/.292/.366 — and Sandoval only played in 126 games. The Sox are going to have to eat the rest of his contract or start a player who put up -0.9 WAR.
Baseball as a whole has gotten wiser, realizing the wisdom of sample sizes. Teams, though, are still comprised of humans, and humans sometimes make mistakes. Let’s hope your team doesn’t throw a $95 million dollar contract at a 30-year-old player with terrible defense. The Yankees have wisely indicated that they will in all likelihood not pursue Murphy. How about instead of signing a middling second baseman, teams kick the tires on Ben Zobrist. He’s an excellent utility player who hasn’t had an OBP below .350 since 2011. Or wait, maybe that’s too simple of an idea.