Zobrist's decision will only help Murphy
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Aren't the victors supposed to get the spoils?
In regard to World Series second basemen, that's certainly the case in the current free-agent market. Half a dozen teams, perhaps the Mets most prominently, are circling Ben Zobrist, who helped the Royals win a championship. The slugging second baseman who was shut down by Kansas City's pitchers and advance scouts in the World Series against the Mets, Daniel Murphy, has become something of a forgotten man.
But not for much longer. Zobrist is expected to make his decision in the next few days, and that should help provide some direction with Murphy.
It has to sting a little bit for Murphy to see the Mets prioritize Zobrist's glove and all-around game over his emerging power and organizational standing. But it's not the first time he's been shuffled back in a line.
This is a guy who had to wait 13 rounds for the Mets to draft him after he had a prolific career at Jacksonville University. He's earned his turn on the open market with his play in a decade as a professional, and at age 30 he's the one with the leverage, albeit not as much as he would have had if the ball hadn't found him so often in the World Series, exposing his defensive limitations.
But what happens if Zobrist chooses to go to the Nationals or the Giants?
A lot of people in New York will clamor for the the National League champs to step up and keep Murphy, even if they have to trade Lucas Duda so he can play first base or if they have to use him as a bat-first super utility man.
That's how good of a hitter Murphy has become since working with hitting coach Kevin Long.
Remember the NL Championship Series, when Murphy ran his historic postseason home run streak to six games and seemed to hit the ball hard every time he went to the plate against the Cubs?
"I don't think I've seen anybody put on this kind of a show on this stage like he has,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I mean, even the guys in the dugout, they're baseball guys too and they're saying the same thing -- who is this guy? He's been unbelievable.''
Perhaps the most impressive thing that the Royals did in winning the World Series in five games was hold Murphy to 3-for-20.
This is a guy who batted .281 and struck out only 38 times in 499 at-bats -- no, that's not a typo -- during the regular season. Yet the Royals got him to start expanding his strike zone, which led to seven strikeouts.
You wonder, if he had stayed hot, if the Mets would be trying to re-sign him rather than add a superior fielder to pair with shortstops Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores in the middle infield while they wait for Dilson Herrera and Amed Rosario to complete their climbs up the ladder. Had Murphy been the October MVP on a team winning the World Series, could the Mets have allowed him to walk away?
It's easier to imagine a scenario like the one that played out with Paul Konerko and the White Sox in 2005. Konerko handed the ball from the groundout to end the sweep over the Astros to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf at the rally that followed the World Series parade, and six weeks later, the Sox handed Konerko a five-year contract, trumping his other offers, including one that had him on the verge of signing with the Angels.
Here, there was no magical ending.
So Murphy's tie with the only organization he's ever played for could be severed by a deal with Zobrist, who was given a tour of Citi Field and suburban neighborhoods outside of Queens during a recent recruiting visit to New York.
Zobrist's signing would also end any chance for the Mets to reconnect with Yoenis Cespedes. He's an even bigger long shot to stick around, given the presence of Curtis Granderson in right field and Michael Conforto in left.
Things might be different for both Murphy and Cespedes if Commissioner Rob Manfred had done more than just suggest he's open-minded on the idea of adding the DH to the NL. But the reality remains that it's tougher to put together a roster in the NL, and this is just the latest example.
It's unclear where the market will take Murphy.
The loudest rumors that surfaced have him as a candidate to play first base in Colorado, but he's not a great fit there, as the Rockies view themselves as overstocked with left-handed hitters, including 28-year-old first baseman Ben Paulsen. If anything, they need a right-handed hitter to platoon with Paulsen, not a compensation free agent to replace him.
Murphy's future might lie in the American League, the Central in particular. He could be a fit with the Indians or the White Sox, both of whom are trying to fill holes in their lineup and better support the talented starting rotation.
His bat could likewise make him a nice addition for the Angels, who have an opening at third base and possibly in a DH platoon. He could be a consideration for the Blue Jays, in the immediate sense, to balance out a lineup that lists to the right side and, long-term, as insurance against the departures of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, who can be free agents after 2016.