The David Murphy rumor is one which as of yet lacks absolute strength, or any sort of necessary confidence. However, I cannot help be extremely interested.
While Murphy is not a big splash, he offers a tremendous amount of ability to positively impact this team offensively and defensively.
Entering the off-season it was clear that the Indians had to improve both third base and right field in order to take a step forward, it was also clear that monetarily they were relatively limited in their ability to impact both positions.
Thus, with Ryan Raburn’s incredible platoon splits, it was fairly obvious that a left handed hitter, with success against right handed pitching and solid defense, would be a solid addition, in order to optimize production in right field at a reasonable cost.
A description that really could just by saying the name, David Murphy.
Of course, there are surface concerns, Murphy struggled offensively in 2013 with a slash line of .220/.282/.374. What was likely his worse season offensively in the big leagues.
However, I don’t believe this is a continual trend or a player aging at a nearly exponential rate.
While Murphy did have a slight down tick in his line drive %, to 19.5%, his BABIP was fluky low. Murphy’s career batting average on balls in play is .302, in 2013 it was .227.
As another point of context, the big league average BABIP was .297. Indeed, it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that Murphy will have a bounce back season offensively in 2014. His BABIP will regress to the mean, and likely we will see him to return to his stable .270 batting average type guy.
More importantly, while Murphy’s BB% was a tick below career average it was not particularly concerning because it was paired with his lowest strikeout rate of his big league career. Which does not show a player who has become lost at the plate.
Thus, offensively, Murphy will absolutely rebound and may offer the Indians a terrific buy low scenario.
Of second importance are his splits, in his big league career, Murphy has posted the following splits against right handed pitching: .280/.347/.467 for an OPS of .816. His discipline is strong against right handed pitching as well with a .63 BB/K ratio.
Outside of Murphy’s value offensively as a platoon guy for Raburn he has other talents to bring to the table.
Murphy has according to UZR and UZR/150 been an above average fielder in left and an average to tick above average defender in right. This defensive versatility offers Francona yet another player to move around a bit in order to most effective optimize his lineup based on opponent.
Of course this is not a major pickup and lacks sex appeal but this could be a very smart move that provides a legitimate marginal value improvement in right field. I am entirely satisfied with this being the Indians move to address right field situation if it is but a domino.
If this is a domino move that allows the Indians to either shore up the 5th slot in the rotation or third base, then they deserve praise.
This move cannot stand alone, it is a start, but this off-season the Tribe needs to make a big step.
The contract data released so far has the deal at two years for a total of $10 million. This deal has upside and lacks any sort of major financial risk. A truly solid under the radar signing.