'Exactly what we need': Cubs acquire Murphy
Club claims veteran off waivers before sealing deal; Monasterio to Nats
DETROIT -- It wasn't until Benjamin Zobrist walked into the food room at the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park that he found out the Cubs had acquired Daniel Murphy from the Nationals.
"We got Daniel Murphy? That's awesome," Zobrist said to manager Joe Maddon.
"It was a legitimate expression of joy on his part, which I thought was kind of cool," Maddon said of Zobrist's reaction.
The Cubs are hoping to take advantage of Murphy's offensive skills in the stretch run. On Tuesday, they acquired the veteran from the Nationals for Minor League infielder Andruw Monasterio plus a player to be named or cash considerations after claiming him off waivers. Murphy is expected to join the Cubs on Wednesday.
• Glossary: Trade Waivers & Aug. 31 'Deadline'
"We were certainly looking to jump-start the offense," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We thought the addition of consistent, high-level, professional at-bats would help us. Daniel Murphy has as good at-bats as anyone in the game. He's a proven, established hitter who hits good pitching. He puts the ball in play, he uses the entire field, he's a tough out, he's postseason proven, loves to hit in Wrigley Field, obviously. The infusion of those kind of at-bats will serve us well."
How will Murphy fit in the Cubs' lineup? Maddon said he wanted to talk to him first. This season, Murphy has primarily played second base (38 games) and some first base. The Cubs have taken advantage of their players' versatility, and Kristopher Bryant could play some outfield when he returns from the disabled list. Zobrist may be playing more outfield than second base, but Maddon has been careful to give Zobrist rest. Javier Baez may be pressed into playing more shortstop because Addison Russell has been nursing a sore right shoulder.
• Russell scratched; Bryant takes big step with BP
"It's nice when you have players who can play all over and guys who can rotate," Bryant said. "You never know with Joe -- he likes to mix it up."
The Cubs know Murphy well -- he batted .529 against them in the 2015 National League Championship Series. Murphy, 33, was batting .300 in 56 games with the Nationals this season. A left-handed hitter, he has a career .413 average in 28 regular-season games at Wrigley Field and was 7-for-12 there in a three-game series earlier this month.
Murphy's Wrigley Field batting average and his 1.142 OPS (minimum 100 PA) there are the highest all-time.
• Murphy absolutely mashes at Wrigley Field
"It's exciting," Bryant said. "We've seen what he does against us, going back to 2015 -- geez. He has a nice at-bat every time, works counts, and is just a pain when you're playing against him. Hopefully he'll bring a lot of that here."
Murphy called the trade "bittersweet," but he is looking forward to playing for the Cubs.
"You feel the energy," Murphy said. "It's a good ballclub over there with those guys. I'm excited to go over there, and I've been able to speak with [general manager] Jed Hoyer and, again, the beauty of being a player is just deploy me as you see fit. I don't have any expectations of what it's going to look like except that I hope that I'm able to be a part of a championship. That's all I ask. I don't know what that's going to look like, and I don't really care."
What's key is Murphy's presence.
"A pro at-bat," Maddon said. "It's really fun to watch him hit. It hasn't been as much fun [to watch from the other side], but it will be more fun now. He kind of devastated us in 2015. Every time we've seen him since then, he's had a good at-bat. I don't care who the pitcher is, right- or left handed, hard or soft. Now you've got him and Zobrist, who are two of the more professional at-bats in baseball."
The Cubs (71-52) boast the best record in the NL, but the offense has been sluggish lately, scoring four runs in four games against the Pirates and batting .239 in August. They have averaged 2.3 runs per game while going 5-5 in their last 10 games.
"If we were killing it offensively, maybe we wouldn't [make the trade], but we haven't been," Zobrist said. "We could use a little boost, and hopefully he can provide that for us."
"He's kind of exactly what we need right now," Maddon said. "Put that kind of at-bat at the top of the order and let him get his at-bats in and set a good example for the rest of the hitters. ... I'm not asking Daniel to come in here and all of a sudden be this force. I just want the guys to see his process. If he's healthy and he's well, which he is, give him his at-bats and he'll hit. I want our guys to watch him during the at-bat and maybe pick his brain."
Murphy did miss more than two months to start the year following right knee surgery. He returned on June 12 and was batting .340 with a .904 OPS since the All-Star break. A left-handed batter, he is a career .299 hitter in 10 Major League seasons with the Mets and Nationals.
"I think I was a bit surprised," Murphy said of the deal. "I'm going to be honest with you -- I didn't think I was going to get claimed. I thought I would slide right through."
He expressed no ill will against the Nationals, who took a chance on him three years ago.
"It's just unfortunate that this was an option," Murphy said. "Sad. But that's baseball. It wasn't anything malicious in nature."