Daniel Murphy has done truly remarkable things this postseason. He has homered off all three of the National League Cy Young contenders, including twice off Clayton Kershaw. He also has also taken Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks deep. In the process he’s hit .421/.426/1.026 over the course of his 39 plate appearances. He’s broken Carlos Betlran’s record for most consecutive postseason games with a home run.
Murphy has always been a good hitter. He’s produced at a .288/.331/.424 clip over the course of his career, and has only stuck out 12.2 percent of the time. His walk rate leaves a lot to be desired, but nonetheless he’s a productive (if streaky) hitter. For all the non-Mets fans out there the most interesting Daniel Murphy Fun Fact is that he’ll be a free agent when the playoffs end. The Yankees need a new second baseman something fierce after two years of enduring the parade of Stephen Drew and company at the keystone following Robinson Cano’s move to Seattle.
The Mets are supposedly prepared to make Murphy a qualifying offer as well. If and when Murphy declines the offer any other team that signs him will surrender their top unprotected draft pick. The Yankees don’t have a protected pick in next year’s draft so they would forfeit their first rounder (the 22nd overall pick), and that’s assuming that they haven’t already signed another free agent tied to draft pick compensation. Between that and the three or four years Murphy will likely sign for, is he the best option for the Yankees?
It’s hard to say. Murphy’s explosion this October is quite obviously a fluke. We shouldn’t expect him to slug .939 going forward. The all time single season slugging leader is Barry Bonds in his 2001 campaign, and that only resulted in a .863 slugging percentage. Murphy is no Bonds. He’s only hit 62 home runs over his whole career. His 14 this year were a career high. Perhaps Murphy has found a way to put more power into his game, and it’s not hard to imagine Yankee Stadium chipping in a few more to his lefty stroke.
Regardless of that, however, Murphy wouldn’t have to be looked upon to be a major source of power in the Yankee lineup. He would almost fall into the Chase Headley role of “get your hits and if you hit one out we’ll take it.” Unlike Headley, Murphy wouldn’t also be expected to dazzle with his defense. Murphy has been worth -9.6 Fielding Runs Above Average over his last two seasons and has a reputation in Mets-land for making boneheaded mistakes in the field and on the basepaths.
A few other players represent options at second base for the Bombers. First and foremost among them is Ben Zobrist. The human Swiss Army Knife has long been on the wish list for the organization and fans alike because of his positional versatility and good offense. However Zobrist is now 35 and managed just 3.0 WARP between his time in Oakland and Kansas City. That’s his lowest mark since 2010 and he’s not getting any younger over the course of the contract he’ll soon be signing; a contract that it’s tough to imagine will last shorter than three years. Zobrist is tantalizing, but not necessarily the best target for the Yankees.
Howie Kendrick will also be on the market. The longtime Angel spent the year with the Dodgers. At the age of 31 he gave the Dodgers 2.2 WARP in 117 games. Kendrick could theoretically be had for cheaper than Zobrist but this is likely a chance of getting what you pay for. Neil Walker of Pittsburgh could also be a trade target given the Pirates’ surplus of middle infield options, but that’s likely as far as the search for a second baseman realistically extends. (Feel free to link to this piece when the Yankees acquire a second baseman not named on this list.)
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that Murphy may very well be the best external option that the Yankees have for second base… or he might not be. It’s hard to tell. His low-strikeout approach seems to be something that could age well, but his already poor defense won’t be aided with age. The keystone is unquestionably a position that the Yankees will need to address this winter, but there doesn’t seem to be a truly attractive free agent option out there. Daniel Murphy’s insane October campaign shouldn’t put him at the top of the list. Yet he already might be there.
(Photo: Jerry Lai-USA Today Sports)