Is Daniel Murphy Worth $4 Million Dollars?

An article by posted on August 22, 2013

daniel murphy

I couldn’t help but notice something that was written on MetsBlog yesterday that suggested that Daniel Murphy was not worth $4 million dollars.

Murphy is eligible for arbitration each of the next two seasons, and I expect he’ll earn around $4 million in 2014. It’s plausible to think Alderson views Murphy as not worth his price tag, at that point.

It struck me as odd because I never viewed Murphy as being anything but a valued player on the Mets and by that I mean the relationship between his performances and what he gets paid. Even at $4 million I’d view him as a nice value.

Now this is not about whether or not we should trade Murphy or move him to the bench. Lets not pretend that once David Wright comes back, Sandy Alderson will have a decision to make regarding Murphy, Wilmer Flores and Ike Davis. You can’t play all three at the same time and something’s gotta give. I get that.

But lets limit this solely to whether or not Murphy is worth $4 million dollars. I decided to ask a few of our writers and this is what they had to say on the matter:

XtreemIcon

There is a stat that tells you what he was worth, but it’s based on WAR. It basically takes the total amount that every single free agent signed for this season, takes the three-year win value of those players and produces a cost per win. The reason free agents are used is because they are the only players that are for sale. Those specific players are the only players you can buy, and by nature, younger players’ value is artificially depressed due to the CBA requiring six years of service before free agency. Matt Harvey would be worth far more than $450,000 on the FA market.

I have absolutely no problem at all with the calculation. I actually think it’s a rather intuitive way to place value on ballplayers. The very crux of value is cost/benefit, so to take the value of each win is a great way to do it. The “wins” (WAR) is where I have an issue. Besides WAR, the nature of free agency is what bothers me about it. The very nature of FA is constituted of old, declining, barely useful players. I looked at the FA tracker for this season, and here’s the top ten contracts given to position players before this season based on AAV:

Hamilton $25
Upton $15
Swisher $14
Bourn $12
Victorino $13
Hunter $13
Laroche $12
Youkilis $12
Berkman $11
Pagan $10

That’s about $137 million this season on those ten guys. Their combined WAR? 10.8 Maybe by the end of the year you can get a 13 WAR from these guys. So that is going to severely skew the “worth” of a player starting next year. And with contracts like Pujols, Werth and A-Rod on the board, the numbers for this season were skewed, as well. I mean, using this year as a standalone, would you pay $10+ million for a one-win player? Because that’s what it cost on this year’s FA market. And it’s only going to get worse as fewer and fewer real good players hit FA, thus driving their price up. It is a real, real concern to Yankee fans that Cano is going to cost $200 million. And I can sort of justify it based on all these other contracts. But after Cano, who’s left? So if a team desperately needs to buy a bat, they have to pay what? 18 mil for Ellsbury or Choo? $15 mil for Beltran, Pence and Nelson Cruz? $12 mil per for Mike Morse? Granderson?

Yes there is a stat. I think it’s a good stat, even a great calculation, but it’s components are severely flawed. Back to Murphy. His “value” this season thus far is $10.6 based on his 2.1 WAR. While I do think Murphy is worth $4 million, if the contingency plan makes the Mets a better team, then his dollar value is moot. If the Mets are convinced that the best infield they have for 2014 doesn’t include Murphy, (and I think we can all make a case that it doesn’t) then that $4 million could be better served paying someone else. Even as a reserve/bench player, that’s a lot to pay a backup. All that’s the long answer. The short answer is, probably yes.

Jacob Resnick

Wow this is kinda crazy. Daniel Murphy is basically the prototypical two hitter who gets hits over 30% of the time and is a potential 35+ doubles guy, so he sets up RBI opportunities for David Wright. Yes he’s not a Brandon Phillips or a Chase Utley, but he sure is going to hit and play defense. And if you ask me, Daniel is having a career year! There’s no telling that can get better.

Ed Marcus

Yes, he is definitely worth $4 million, but I think That Sandy may be inclined to trade Murph this offseason for either a outfield power bat, shortstop or middle relief help . My feeling is that he may be slotting Wilmer as his second baseman next season – just a theory though

Connor O’Brien

Without a doubt he’s worth $4 million. This is a very crude way of looking at it, but it proves the point nonetheless. One Win Above Replacement on the open market right now is going for about $5 million, and the cost is only rising by the year. Teams are spending more per WAR of production. Murphy has put up fWAR marks of 0.9, 1.0, 2.8, 1.3, and 2.1. Every year he’s played for the Mets, he’s been worth over $4 million, even in his 49 games in 2008.

Last year, the metrics and what I saw from Murphy put him at a well-below average fielder. He had a -11 DRS and -10.2 UZR at second base alone last year. Even with those horrible defensive marks, he had a 1.3 fWAR, worth almost $6 million. This year, the metrics like him much better on defense (and we’ve seen some improvement out there), giving him an fWAR of 2.1, which would cost roughly $10.6 million on the open market. He has seen his production at the plate go from slightly above average to slightly below, but he has been worth well over $4 million. Even if he reverts back to last year with the glove, the $4 million is still a bargain.

The real question is whether you want him as your long-term second baseman. It’s important not to get the two confused. He is worth the money, but whether you want him as your everyday second baseman going forward is still up for debate.

* * * * * * * *

As I said, there’s no telling whether Murphy will still be here and playing second base next season. I still think he could be a valuable reserve player who can give the Mets 350 at-bats easily over the course of a season. He can play three infield positions and would render Justin Turner as the odd man out. I’m not ready to let Murphy go, but based on what he’s done and what he’s capable of, he’s certainly worth every penny of that $4 million dollars if that’s what he gets in arbitration.

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I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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