- The Nationals asked about Murphy at the trade deadline in 2014 and have long liked him, Mark Zuckerman tweets. Murphy was an even better fit given the Nats’ need for a solid left-handed hitter in their lineup.
- Murphy’s lefty swing might’ve been a key factor in his signing, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Rosenthal had heard that Murphy was a “low priority” for Washington as the team looked for second base alternatives after a proposed trade for Brandon Phillips fell apart. Since the Nats had such a glaring need for a left-handed hitter, that gave Murphy the edge over fellow free agent Howie Kendrick (a right-handed hitter) or other trade options.
- In another set of tweets from Rosenthal, he believes the qualifying offer played a role in Murphy’s contract. Any team signing Murphy would’ve had to give up a first-rounder (or second-rounder, in the case of a protected pick) as compensation, so the Nats had to surrender the 17th overall pick in the draft. Since that pick had a rough valuation of $10MM, that “amounts to a tax” beyond what the team was willing to pay Murphy. If teams were hesitant about giving up a pick for Murphy, that may well have depressed his market; MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes thought Murphy would sign for a four-year/$56MM deal this offseason.
- Though Murphy and Anthony Rendon can both play second and third, MLB.com’s William Ladson sees Murphy and Danny Espinosa as the current favorites to be Washington’s Opening Day middle infielders (Twitter links). Since Murphy is a below-average defender, however, Ladson sees the Nats acquiring a glove-first bench option to spell Murphy in the late innings of games. Espinosa himself might eventually fill this role, though that will depend on when or if Trea Turner is able to take over the everyday shortstop job.
- Murphy going to D.C. adds even more depth to an already-burgeoning rivalry between the Nationals and Mets, the New York Times’ Tim Rohan writes. Rohan recaps Murphy’s important role in this era of Mets baseball and also the reasons why he was ultimately an expendable piece for the club.
6:54pm: The contract is a three-year deal worth $37.5MM, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).
4:25pm: The Nationals have agreed to a three-year deal with second baseman Daniel Murphy, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports (via Twitter). The deal will become official once Murphy passes a physical, as per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Murphy is represented by the ACES agency.
Washington’s interest in Murphy was first reported by MLB.com’s Bill Ladson last week. The Nats have been looking for infield help for much of the winter, as they were finalists for Ben Zobrist’s services, had talks with Howie Kendrick and were on the verge of acquiring Brandon Phillips from the Reds before Phillips declined to waive his no-trade clause without a contract extension.
Murphy, who turns 31 on April 1, hit .281/.322/.449 with a career-best 14 homers over 538 plate appearances in 2015. A 13th-round pick for the Mets in the 2006 draft, Murphy developed into a very solid big leaguer who has posted 12.2 fWAR/9.6 bWAR over the last five years. Mets fans will forever remember Murphy’s contributions in the 2015 postseason, as he posted a whopping 1.462 OPS and seven home runs over 39 PA in the NLDS and NLCS, a performance that earned him the NLCS MVP Award. Murphy became the first player in baseball history to homer in six consecutive postseason games.
In Murphy, the Nationals add a player who provides good pop for a middle infielder and also a versatile defender who play third, first and (on a limited basis) left as well as the keystone. In fact, according to metrics like UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved, second base is actually Murphy’s worst defensive position. Since Anthony Rendon can also play both second and third, it’s possible the Nats could use Murphy at the hot corner.
Regardless of who plays second, the signing ensures that Danny Espinosa will take over at shortstop until top prospect Trea Turner is ready for the big leagues. Murphy could also spell Ryan Zimmerman at first base against the occasional right-handed starter. In any case, Murphy’s multi-positional ability gives manager Dusty Baker a lot of flexibility in arranging lineups and late-game situations. Perhaps most importantly, Murphy also adds a much-needed left-handed bat to Washington’s lineup — Murphy and Bryce Harper are currently the only left-handed hitters projected to play everyday roles for the Nationals.
There wasn’t too much public buzz about Murphy’s free agent market before the Nats emerged, as the Rockies, Dodgers and Mets all had some interest but in somewhat limited fashion. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Murphy 17th on his list of the winter’s top 50 free agents and predicted he’d land a four-year/$56MM contract. It could be that Murphy’s market was impacted by the number of notable infielders being dealt this offseason. The three teams noted in Dierkes’ list (the Angels, White Sox and Yankees), for example, all addressed infield needs in trades for the likes of Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie, Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro.
Since Murphy rejected a qualifying offer from the Mets, New York will receive a compensation pick between the first and second rounds of the 2016 draft. The Nationals, in turn, will have to surrender their first-round pick (17th overall) the draft but they may end up taking only a minor slide down the draft board since they have two QO free agents of their own. Washington already received a compensation round pick when Jordan Zimmermann signed with the Tigers and they could receive another if Ian Desmond signs elsewhere.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports Images
The Nationals have had dialogue with the representatives for free-agent second basemen Howie Kendrick and Daniel Murphy, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (Twitter link). The Nationals are known to be in search of second base upgrades, having recently embarked on an unsuccessful pursuit of a Brandon Phillips trade. Washington has also been connected to Kelly Johnson this offseason, although both Kendrick and Murphy would require considerably more significant commitments than Johnson in terms of both years and dollars.
Kendrick, 32, has been a consistently above-average offensive performer over the past five seasons, batting a combined .291/.337/.421 while averaging 14 homers and 13 steals per 162 games played. Kendrick has typically graded out as a plus defender at second base, but both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating were down on his work in 2015. It’s possible that a minor knee issue and a more significant hamstring issue, which cost him a month of the season, contributed to his diminished ratings. However, as a player who turns 33 next July, it’s also possible that Kendrick’s range has deteriorated. If that’s the case, a three- or four-year commitment for the former All-Star is a dangerous proposition, as Kendrick has always drawn a good bit of value from his glovework. Then again, he totaled 2.1 fWAR last season, so he’s still capable of delivering value even with lesser defensive returns. (Baseball-Reference, which uses DRS in its WAR equation, was less optimistic, rating Kendrick at 1.1 WAR.)
This isn’t the first time that Ladson has connected the Nationals to Murphy, though the mention of dialogue between the two sides is a step forward from Ladson’s previous report, in which he indicated that the Nationals were interested in Murphy but didn’t specify whether the two parties had spoken. The 30-year-old Murphy doesn’t have Kendrick’s defensive track record, but he’s been a comparable hitter over the past five seasons and is 18 months younger, so the Nationals would theoretically be buying more of his prime than they would with Kendrick. Murphy also brings something to the Nats that Kendrick cannot offer: a left-handed bat to balance out a highly right-handed lineup. Bryce Harper is the Nationals’ only left-handed-hitting regular in the lineup, which could leave the team susceptible to right-handed opponents. Murphy also showed considerably more power in 2015 than did Kendrick, clubbing 14 homers in the regular season before going on his notorious postseason power binge.
Adding either Kendrick or Murphy to the picture would allow the Nationals to give promising prospect Trea Turner some additional development time in the minor leagues, with Danny Espinosa opening the season at shortstop. Espinosa could then shift to a valuable utility role if and when Turner is ready, potentially spelling Murphy against tough left-handed pitching or serving as a late-game defensive upgrade over either free agent.
Now that the Cardinals have signed right-hander Mike Leake to a five-year deal, they’re out of the mix on lefty Scott Kazmir, tweets CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. The Nationals, Orioles and Royals are among the clubs still looking at Kazmir, according to Heyman. A report from Monday indicated that the Athletics and Astros were also among the finalists for Kazmir, who reportedly has received three-year offers that come with annual rates in the $12-13MM range. However, Kazmir’s hope is said to be a four-year contract. Earlier tonight, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun wrote that he didn’t foresee the O’s going four years on Kazmir (or any other free-agent starter, for that matter).
A few more notes on what is still a very deep class of free agents…
- Daniel Murphy hasn’t been aggressive in seeking new opportunities for much of the offseason, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post, as he maintained hope that he would return to the Mets right up until their acquisition of Neil Walker from the Pirates. The Mets, according to Puma, were clear in telling Murphy that they intended to go in another direction this offseason, but Murphy sought more than the one- to two-year offers with which the Mets were comfortable and seems to have been hoping that an increased offer from the Mets would materialize.
- Agent Scott Boras has been seeking a three-year deal for client Denard Span, industry sources tell Puma in a second column. The Mets had genuine interest in Span, according to Puma, but they weren’t keen on committing to a center field partner for Juan Lagares beyond the 2016 season. Beyond that, the Mets didn’t want to wait for Span’s January showcase before moving to add a left-handed bat, as doing so would’ve meant risking their alternative options signing elsewhere in the interim.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore wouldn’t comment to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan when asked about negotiations with Alex Gordon — specifically, Jim Bowden’s previous report at ESPN that the Royals are offering $12-13MM per year on a four-year deal — or extension talks with catcher Salvador Perez. Moore did, however, openly voice his desire to add a corner outfielder and another starting pitcher. “We feel we have quality depth in the outfield, but we have a desire for an experienced corner outfielder. And we would like another quality starting pitcher,” said Moore. Per Flanagan, the Royals hope to have seven or eight players that are viable rotation options on the roster to open the season. At present, Kansas City has Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy, Chris Young and Kris Medlen as options, plus lefty Jason Vargas recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Nationals have interest in free agent Daniel Murphy, a baseball source tells Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Second base has been one of the Nationals’ biggest needs this offseason so a pursuit of Murphy would make a good deal of sense.
Murphy, 31 in April, boasted the best contact rate in baseball among qualified hitters in 2015. After hitting a career-high 14 home runs in the regular season, Murphy smashed seven more in the span of seven postseason games against the Dodgers and Cubs. On the flipside, Murphy is a below average defensive second baseman who owns a weak -6.3 UZR/150 rating. Last year, he managed only a -3.3 UZR/150 rating at second base which actually turned out to be the best of his career.
At the outset of the offseason, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted that Murphy would land a four-year, $56MM deal with the Angels, Yankees, and White Sox getting involved. At the time of this writing, it’s not exactly clear who the leading teams are for the infielder, who turns 31 in April. The incumbent Mets apparently haven’t ruled out a reunion with Murphy, though they would like to sign him to a one- or two-year deal. Meanwhile, with unprotected first round picks will have to think long and hard before signing Murphy, who rejected the Mets’ QO earlier this offseason.
Earlier this week, the Nationals reportedly had trade discussions with the Reds regarding Brandon Phillips. While Phillips is intriguing, Washington is said to be gunning for a left-handed hitting second baseman to bring balance to their lineup. Murphy could do just that, though he cannot offer defense on the level of Danny Espinosa.
The Mets were surprised by Ben Zobrist’s decision to spurn them for the Cubs, but that doesn’t mean they’re likely to re-sign Daniel Murphy as a backup plan, Mike Puma of the New York Post writes. Puma notes that the Mets would have interest in Murphy on a one- or two-year contract, but they expect him to get four years elsewhere. The Mets are also “lukewarm” on Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera. Ian Desmond is another possibility, with Wilmer Flores moving to second, but the Mets are wary about his defense. Puma notes that the Mets could just go with 21-year-old Dilson Herrera at second and focus on upgrading elsewhere. That option strikes me as a fairly good one — Herrera is young, but he’s hit brilliantly in the upper minors and certainly looks like he’ll be ready to start soon if he isn’t already. Here’s more on the Mets.
- The Mets have listened to trade offers regarding lefty Jon Niese, Puma writes. If they were to deal Niese, they could use Rafael Montero as their fifth starter until Zack Wheeler is ready to return after having had Tommy John surgery in March.
- The Mets are interested in Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, but aren’t optimistic they’ll be able to swing a deal, Puma tweets. Walker could conceivably take over at second base for the Mets in 2016, after which he’ll be a free agent.
- The Mets met with Ben Zobrist’s representatives at Octagon yesterday, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets, but the two sides actually talked about other Octagon players. That could mean anything, but via MLBTR’s Agency Database, Octagon clients who could be of interest to the Mets include Cabrera, Gerardo Parra, Fernando Rodney and Edward Mujica. Cabrera and Parra have both recently been connected to the Mets.
10:13pm: Zobrist’s priority is to play for a winning club, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, leaving the Braves “behind” in the race.
Meanwhile, Mets assistant GM John Ricco acknowledged today that the club has serious interest, as ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin reports. “We’ve had conversations with his guys,” said Ricco of Zobrist, “and we’ll definitely be meeting with them [at the Winter Meetings].” He added: “It’s pretty obvious we think he’s a fit.”
New York expects a decision to be made in the coming days, though it hasn’t apparently been given any such assurances by Zobrist’s camp. The club is “not sure … which direction [it] would go” if Zobrist heads elsewhere, Ricco said. He notes that the Mets haven’t ruled out Daniel Murphy and acknowledged that the team has “touched base” with “all of the free agents,” including middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, who Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported (Twitter link) could be an option.
7:57pm: More than one team is willing to guarantee four seasons in a contract with free agent super-utilityman Ben Zobrist, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The Mets are one such club, per the report, which indicates that there are others as well.
Other teams in the mix include the Mets, Nationals, Giants, and a “mystery team,” Heyman says. Earlier today, Marc Carig of Newsday reported (Twitter links) that six clubs remained involved with Zobrist to some extent.
Zobrist wrapped up his on-site visits with a trip to the Giants’ AT&T Park today, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has learned. And the hotly-pursued veteran appears to be lined up for a decision in the coming days, as Carig adds.
But that doesn’t mean he’s done with meetings. Indeed, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweeted earlier today that Zobrist would meet with representatives of the Nationals at the Winter Meetings — which are being held in his home town of Nashville. And it stands to reason that he’ll have cause to chat with other organizations as well.
Johnny Cueto tops the list as the key player to watch at the Winter Meetings, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes in his latest Inside Baseball piece. Several big-market clubs have already checked in on Cueto and the Dodgers may hold particular interest since they considered trading for Cueto at the deadline last summer but held off out of a desire to keep their top prospects. Heyman’s piece was written before the news of Zack Greinke’s deal with the Diamondbacks broke, so it stands to reason that the Dodgers’ interest could be even greater with Greinke off the board. The Cardinals, Heyman reports, haven’t checked in on Cueto, as the righty “had a rough relationship with Cardinal Nation while starring in Cincinnati.”
Here are some of the hot stove highlights of Heyman’s lengthy news roundup…
- The Giants may pursue not one but two pitchers now that they’ve missed out on Greinke. San Francisco is “believed to have big money to spend” and they’ve been connected to such names as Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija.
- The Rangers are receiving a lot of interest in many of their top relievers, including closer Shawn Tolleson, Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson and the newly-acquired Tom Wilhelmsen.
- The Rangers’ shopping list includes a right-handed bat for lineup balance and a starting pitcher likely to fill out the back of the rotation. Texas is also looking for a young catcher. Earlier this week, the Rangers were said to be working on a deal to add a catcher but no trade materialized.
- Pedro Alvarez has received calls from five teams, including the Indians, since being non-tendered by the Pirates earlier this week.
- Another non-tendered Alvarez, former Marlins righty Henderson Alvarez, is also drawing a lot of interest on the open market, with 10 teams checking in. Though 2015 was a lost year for Alvarez due to injuries and he may miss some time in 2016 in the wake of shoulder surgery, it’s no surprise that Alvarez is a hot commodity given his track record.
- The Marlins’ desire to trade Marcell Ozuna is well-known, though Heyman notes that one obstacle is Miami’s lack of a ready-made replacement in center field. In a tweet from this morning, Heyman wonders if Dexter Fowler could be pursued since Fowler was formerly tutored by new Miami hitting coach Barry Bonds. There hasn’t yet been any sign that the Marlins are interested in Fowler, however.
- Speaking of Marlins trades, closer A.J. Ramos and third baseman Martin Prado have both drawn interest but Heyman figures the team isn’t too likely to part with either player.
- A few teams called the Dodgers to ask about Yasiel Puig’s availability but the Dodgers aren’t keen on selling low on the outfielder. The team intends to “try to reach him” and inspire Puig to return to his old form. The Dodgers are more likely to trade Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier if they do decide to move an outfielder, though dealing either could be hard given the crowded outfield market (not to mention both players’ salaries).
- Daniel Murphy was connected to the Dodgers this offseason but he “doesn’t appear to be at the forefront” of the team’s plans at the moment.
- The Mets seem to be more serious about adding a platoon partner for Juan Lagares in center field rather than sign an everyday center fielder like Fowler or Denard Span.
- Brett Gardner’s name has surfaced in trade rumors this winter but “there isn’t currently any traction for a trade” between the Yankees and any other teams.
- The Yankees are another team monitoring the free agent pitching market and New York “may be laying in the weeds” to make its move on Samardzija or Wei-Yin Chen.
- Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar would be a fit with the Cubs but there is “nothing to that one at the moment.” It’s hard to see Toronto dealing the defensively-spectacular Pillar given how their next best center field option (Dalton Pompey) is still unproven at the Major League level and struggled badly when given the everyday job last April.
The Mets are “very interested” in Ben Zobrist and had a conference call with his representatives at Octagon today, reports Tim Rohan of the New York Times (links to Twitter). Rohan notes, however, that there are as many as 10 teams seriously interested in Zobrist, most of whom are also contenders. Zobrist, who is seeking a four-year deal, is listening to the pitches from each club and wants to play for a winning team. Newsday’s Marc Carig writes that there’s been a “steady dialogue” between the Mets and Zobrist’s camp, but there’s no indication that the Mets are willing to enter a bidding war for the versatile switch-hitter. And Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes that Mets officials indicated to him last week that their internal expectation was for Zobrist’s robust market to price him out of their comfort zone. To this point, the Mets haven’t made a formal offer to a free agent, Rubin adds. (Although that’s probably true of several clubs.)
Here are a few more notes pertaining to the reigning NL champs…
- The Mets are expected to make a “legitimate bid” for Daniel Murphy, writes Rubin in a second piece. He adds that some within the Mets organization feel that Murphy might consider an offer from the Mets even if they don’t make the strongest bid due to his longstanding relationship with the team. Carig tweets that it’s still unlikely there will be a reunion though, unless Murphy is willing to leave significant money on the table, adding that the Mets passed on the opportunity to discuss an in-season extension (to which Murphy was open). MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets that the Mets seem to value Zobrist’s versatility (i.e. his outfield capability) over Murphy, but the team may very well get outbid on both free agents anyhow.
- Rubin also writes that the Mets are moving toward a non-tender of shortstop Ruben Tejada, whose raise in arbitration is beyond what the team is interested in paying him coming off his second broken fibula and considering his rather light bat. MLBTR projects a $2.5MM salary for Tejada, though Rubin’s report is based on a $3MM+ figure that could come about if the team were to lose a hearing to Tejada.
- Earlier this morning, Ken Rosenthal reported that Darren O’Day is seeking a four-year contract in the $28-36MM range, and while the Mets have been linked to O’Day, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that he was told New York “most likely” wouldn’t remain in the mix if the price escalated to those levels.
- One more from Rubin, who writes that finding a left-handed complement to Juan Lagares in center field is currently the priority for the Mets, though they’re also “poking around” the trade market for a shortstop and considering setup men to add to the back end of their bullpen. The team doesn’t envision any major additions prior to the Winter Meetings, which begin on Dec. 7, Rubin adds.
The deadline or players to accept or reject their one-year, $15.8MM qualifying offers was today at 5pm ET. We already know that Colby Rasmus will become the first player to ever accept a qualifying offer, and Marco Estrada reached a two-year deal with the Blue Jays. Brett Anderson also accepted his qualifying offer from the Dodgers.
Here are the updates on the rest of the 20 players that received qualifying offers one week ago today…
- Ian Desmond will reject the Nationals’ offer, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. He’ll be joined on the open market by Jordan Zimmermann, who did the same, per a tweet from MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.
- While Brett Anderson will be returning on a one-year deal, Howie Kendrick and Zack Greinke have rejected their qualifying offers from the Dodgers, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter links),
- It’s an obvious one, but Alex Gordon will hit the open market rather than taking a one-year deal from the Royals, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Likewise, Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy of the Padres will participate in the open market his fall (per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, on Twitter) and Dexter Fowler has turned down his offer from the Cubs, as Paul Sullivan of 670thescore.com tweets.
- The Cardinals will stand to pick up draft choices if Jason Heyward and John Lackey sign elsewhere, as they too have rejected the offer, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter).
- Daniel Murphy and Jeff Samardzija have declined their offers, per reports from Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter) and Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com (also via Twitter).
- Gallardo has declined his QO, Stevenson now tweets.
- As expected, Hisashi Iwakuma has turned down the qualifying offer issued to him by the Mariners, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets.
- Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram hears differently on Gallardo, reporting that he’s still deciding whether or not to accept (links to Twitter). Gallardo’s camp has spoken to multiple other clubs about a deal, but the righty is still mulling a return to his hometown team.
- Yovani Gallardo will decline the Rangers’ qualifying offer in search of a multi-year contract, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Gallardo never seemed likely to accept the deal, though there may have been a bit of temptation given the fact that Gallardo is a Fort Worth native. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that he spoke to Gallardo’s agent, Bobby Witt, and was told that he’s yet to officially inform the Rangers one way or the other (Twitter link).
Those who are unfamiliar with the process can refer to MLBTR’s explanation of the qualifying offer system for full details.