While it might not rank on the level of Red Sox’s fans seeing Roger Clemens in pinstripes or Dodgers’ fans seeing Steve Garvey in Padres’ threads, it will probably cause the already typically angst-ridden fans of the New York Mets to have even more reasons to worry when they see Daniel Murphy wearing a curly W cap in 2016. And it will be odd for those of us pulling for Washington to see one of our former tormentors (I know that the numbers don’t bear this out, but it seems as though Murphy had two hits in every game played against the Nats) on our side this season.
The question we’re all asking is what will Murphy bring to the table in DC that will help Washington’s 2016 campaign to be an improvement over its difficult 2015 season.
For all intents and purposes, Murphy is replacing one of the players not named Bryce Harper who had a good season for Washington in 2015. While Yunel Escobar did not play second base as Murphy will, Escobar’s production was very similar to Murphy’s last year:
ESCOBAR .314 avg/.375 obp/.415 slug .790 OPS 25 2b 1 3b 9 HR 59 RBI
MURPHY .281 avg/.322 obp/.449 slub .770 OPS 38 2b 2 3b 14 HR 73 RBI
For their careers, Escobar has hit .281 with a .350 on base percentage while Murphy’s hit .288 with a .331 obp.
Neither is particularly accomplished with the glove, with Escobar ranking at the bottom among National League third basemen in many defensive metrics last year while Murphy struggled with the glove at second in New York (as Mets’ fans were painfully reminded in the 2015 World Series).
There are several reasons, however, why the replacement of Escobar by Murphy should benefit Washington. First, the acquisition helps balance out a Washington lineup that was predominantly right-handed in 2015. Murphy and other new National Ben Revere will give Dusty Baker left-handed options to team with Harper that Matt Williams did not have in 2015.
While the two players’ numbers are similar, Murphy is more of an extra-base threat (54 XBH to Escobar’s 35 in 2015). One can see the new Nats’ second baseman driving the ball into the gaps in Nationals Park to become “Danny Doubles” or whatever other clever nickname F.P Santangelo comes up with to match his “Tony Two Bags” moniker for Anthony Rendon.
And speaking of Rendon, Murphy’s acquisition allows the Nats’ talented fourth year man to play third base where he’s been very effective with the glove. With the combination of better health and being locked in at his best defensive position, perhaps Rendon will flash the form this year that made him one of the Nats’ best players in 2014.
It will be odd seeing anyone wearing Ian Desmond’s #20 in 2016, but at least the number will be worn by a player plays with the grit and intensity that Desmond demonstrated during his time in Washington. It will be interesting to see how the Citi Field faithful react to Murphy’s becoming their rival when the Nats visit the Big Apple in the season’s second month. For Mets’ fans, perhaps the best way to look at this situation is to realize that it could have been worse….Yoenis Cespedes could have been in red instead of blue in 2016 as well!