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The curious case of Daniel Murphy

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Despite the Mets offensive struggles this season, 2B Daniel Murphy enters tonight’s rubber game against the Brewers tied for the National League lead in hits at 81. With the Mets beginning their annual summer tailspin, Murph’s name will inevitably emerge in trade deadline talks. Set to become arbitration eligible this offseason and a free agent in 2016, there is a financial argument for dealing the second basemen. However, in the fourth year of the Sandy Alderson era, it is time for the Mets to start thinking with their heads instead of their wallets.

Drafted out of Jacksonville University in the 13th round of the 2006 amateur draft, Murphy was originally a third baseman. However, he rose through the minor leagues quickly after tearing up low level pitching. Murphy was promoted to the majors in just his second full season of professional baseball. He was called up on August 2nd 2008 against Houston after hitting .315 with 13 HR and 67 RBIs over three different levels of the Mets farm system.

With third base blocked by franchise cornerstone David Wright, Murphy’s development as a big league player was stunted by a long and drawn out search for a position on the field. Playing on a roster that included Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo, then manager Jerry Manuel sought to get Murphy’s bat into the lineup by sticking him in left field despite having only started four games at the position in his minor league career. Though he enjoyed a successful rookie campaign at the plate, Murphy struggled mightily in the outfield.

In 2009 following the departure of Delgado, Murphy was moved to first base where he proved to be far more comfortable. In an unbearable year that was decimated by injuries (take a look at the guys who played on this team), Murphy emerged as a bright spot, hitting .266 while leading the team in home runs with 12.

Set to become a staple in the 2010 Mets lineup, Murphy’s career took an unexpected jolt when he tore his MCL during a rehab game for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Murphy missed the entire 2010 season.

When Murphy was set to return the following year, Ike Davis was coming off of a terrific rookie year in his stead and appeared poised to lock down the first base position in New York for years to come. As a result, Murphy was forced into yet another position change. After sending Luis Castillo packing in the offseason, Murphy became the team’s everyday second baseman. Though a freak injury to Ike Davis put Murphy back at first for the majority of the season, Daniel emerged as a solid threat at the plate. He was hitting .320 with 49 RBIs when a nasty collision with Atlanta Braves OF Jose Constanza at second base resulted in a second torn MCL in as many seasons. He was third in the NL in hitting at the time of his injury.

Since recovering from his injuries, Murphy has solidified himself as one of the most dependable and underrated players in the MLB. Dating back to 2012, Murph has started the fifth most games at second base with 339, behind only Robinson Cano (360), Dustin Pedroia (360), Brandon Phillips and Jose Altuve. This is an incredible feat considering he has filled in at first base 19 times over that same span.

Though Murphy’s fielding prowess is often a topic of concern among baseball pundits and Mets fans alike, his ability to swing the bat is unquestioned. In 2013 Murph finished second in the NL in hits with 188. This season he is on pace to reach 202 hits. Only two Mets have ever reached the 200 hit plateau before. Lance Johnson did so with 227 in 1996, while Jose Reyes accomplished the feat in 2008 with 204.

On a team starved for any offensive production, the Mets need to lock down any effective bats that they can. Renowned for his ability to let the ball deep into the strike zone, no one in the league is better at slapping the ball to the opposite field. Since settling in at second base and overcoming a flurry of serious injuries, Murphy has evolved into a potential all-star and a player worth investing in.

It is likely that Murphy will command anywhere from $10-15 million a year based on the second base free agent market in 2016. In a league bereft of offensively dependable second baseman, a player like Daniel Murphy is a valuable commodity both on paper and in the field. If the Mets want to prove to their fan base and players that they are serious about winning, they will shell out the necessary funds to keep Daniel Murphy in New York beyond 2016.

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