The New York Mets faced a difficult decision in the summer of 2011, when their all-star, fan-favorite shortstop Jose Reyes entered free agency. There were no indications of any offers made by New York, and by December 11th, Reyes was a member of the Miami Marlins, signing a 6-year, $110 contract. But the Mets front office fooled many of us into believing this was the right move. With a solid prospect in Tejada, who – after a strong 2011 season as a backup and utility player – convinced many he could hold the fort as a starting shortstop. When faced with the decision of paying up or using prospects, the Mets chose the latter.
Fast foward four years, and the position is still in shackles. Clearly, the team took the wrong approach.
Now, the team approaches almost an identical scenario with second basemen Daniel Murphy, and if anything was learned from the mistake of 2011, it would be understood that resigning the second baseman is a must.
Although Murphy has the entire 2015 season left before he has to worry about free agency, the approach of this team regarding the second baseman’s future has been made clear: They do not see him as a part of this team moving forward. He was asked at multiple points last year if he and the team were engaged in any extension talks, and the answer was always no.
This spring, the media caught up with Murphy who again said no contract extensions have been discussed. Most importantly, though, a source close to the team told Adam Rubin that the team has no intention of extending Murphy.
Again, the team is relying on its prospects. The organization is high on second-base prospect Dilson Hererra, who we got a short glimpse of in 2014. The hype is all for good reason: he’s a five-tool player who’s had some extraordinary minor league numbers. Heck, Buster Olney even said he will be an all-star in three years.
Murphy isn’t an extraordinary defender, struggles to get on base at a great clip, so the team figures why pay up to the market when we can play a potential star at the MLB minimum for many years.
And the reasoning is so, so flawed.
In a league that’s become so pitcher-friendly, players like Murphy come around rarely, especially for a team with the Mets’ luck. Murphy has been a breath of fresh air over the past few seasons. He’s hit .286 or higher in every season since 2011, (playing in greater than 109 games each year), and has been a staple in the lineup. He was the team’s lone all-star in 2014. Players like him, with such a gifted hitting ability, don’t come around so often.
You can set expectations for prospects, but nothing is guaranteed. Prospects can break your heart. For a team that is taking the leap for contention, finally trying to become relevant, a middle infield of Flores and Herrera is simply unacceptable.
A wining team can only have so many unproven spots/questions marks, and letting Murphy walk opens up a big whole. Expecting Herrera to fill his shoes, no mater how good of a prospect he is, is unrealistic.
In a scenario where a player is out of a team’s price range, sometimes you have to let the player loose. For Murphy, though, money doesn’t seem to be holding them back. When he was asked if he’s playing himself out of the team’s price range, Murphy humbly responded:
“I don’t know, man — $8 million is a lot of money. That’s a lot of scratch. I didn’t think I’d make that much money ever. So, no, I don’t think of it that way… My wife and I looked at each other when we signed that [one-year] deal and looked at each other kind of cross-eyed — ‘Can you believe they’re going to pay us this much money to play baseball? Woof.’ So, no, I don’t think I’m pricing myself out of this market.”
Obviously, anything a player says to media needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But when you couple this report with all the indications Murphy has given on his openness for in-season contract extensions, plus his openly stated desires to stay with the team beyond 2015, it is realistic to believe Murphy would sign a 3-4 year deal worth $8-10 million per season.
This organization is turning a corner. The 2015 Mets should be a competitive one, and the city of New York may become one of orange and blue fairly soon. But if the organization is serious about winning and remaining a relevant team for years to come, they need to back up their talk and extend Daniel Murphy.
The team faced this decision once before and made a big mistake. And now, facing a similar decision out of rebuilding mode and in contention mode, there’s no more excuses. It’s time for business, it’s time to pay up and stop relying on the prospects.