December 15, 2017

Washington Nationals agree to terms with Daniel Murphy

According to multiple reports, the Washington Nationals and free agent 2B/3B Daniel Murphy, formerly of the New York Mets, agreed to a three-year deal, terms undisclosed. The deal is pending a physical, according to the Washington Post.

Murphy, 31 on opening day, hit .281 with 14 home runs, 73 RIs and a .770 OPS in 130 games in 2015, and hit seven homers with 14 RIs in 14 playoff games for the Mets. He’s a lifetime .288/.331/.424 hitter. Murphy is the left-handed bat the Nats have been trying to acquire all winter.

There are two downsides, though.

One — Murphy is simply one of the worst fielding second basemen in the league, regardless of what metric one might want to use. He’s only marginally better at third base, but he doesn’t have the arm to play the position. Murphy does have some experience playing first base, and with Ryan Zimmerman’s health issues, Murphy’s flexibility might be his best defensive asset.

Two — The Nats have to forfeit their first round pick, No. 18 overall, in compensation for signing Murphy. The Nats will get compensatory picks, however, for losing  Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, but those picks come following the completion of the first round.

The Nats have been looking for infield help since the end of the season, when it was clear that Desmond would test free agency. They were linked to Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips, but Zobrist singed elsewhere and Phillips did not waive his 10/5 rights to accept a trade to D.C.

 Where Murphy slots into the batting order is a great question, especially since the Nats don’t really have a qualified contender for a traditional leadoff hitter, with Denard Span leaving via free agency. With the roster as it is, one can envision a batting order like this:

LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
C Wilson Ramos
SS Danny Espinosa
CF Michael Taylor

I think the Nats would still like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder that could split time with Taylor and provide insurance against Werth getting hurt again. There’s still plenty of time between now and spring training for Mike Rizzo to address that, but at least it appears he got the infield help he’s been looking for all winter.

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