'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, except...Daniel Murphy because he was just about to sign a three-year contract worth $37.5 million. In keeping with the offseason trend, this news seemingly came out of nowhere, as there was just one report linking the Nationals to Murphy before he ultimately agreed to terms.
In Murphy, Washington is getting a consistently above-average-hitting second baseman, who, barring injury, should be a great signing for the next three seasons.
|2008||151||2||11.9 %||18.5 %||.160||.381||133||0.8|
|2009||556||12||6.8 %||12.4 %||.161||.319||94||0.8|
|2011||423||6||5.7 %||9.9 %||.128||.354||126||2.6|
|2012||612||6||5.9 %||13.4 %||.112||.318||103||1.5|
|2013||697||13||4.6 %||13.6 %||.129||.320||107||3.1|
|2014||642||9||6.1 %||13.4 %||.114||.324||110||2.5|
|2015||538||14||5.8 %||7.1 %||.168||.325||110||2.5|
In every season except for 2009, he's posted an above average wRC+ and since 2013 has largely been the same player. As with any contract, there are two distinct viewpoints in which we can analyze this deal; in the immediate aftermath, it seems that the Nationals came out on top.
How this worked out for the Nationals
Assuming that Murphy's offensive skills don't crater during the life of his new contract, he should provide plenty of surplus value for Washington.
"Over the last three seasons, Murphy has generated $62.1 million in value according to FanGraphs, which would translate to an AAV of $20.7 million. If he can be that player for three more seasons, then signing him to a contract worth $30 to $40 million in overall value would be a steal, as there are some indications that Murphy is in fact getting better"
Coincidentally, this is almost exactly what happened. While there's money deferred in Murphy's contract (that will pay him through 2020), his overall contract comes in at just under $40 million and covers the next three years of his career. Murphy has posted an fWAR of at least 2.5 each season since 2013. If he can sustain his power and fantastic strikeout rates, there's no reason to think that Murphy won't be worth the money that Washington has committed to him.
While Danny Espinosa provided almost the same overall value during the 2015 season (an fWAR of 2.3 compared to Murphy's 2.5), much of Espinosa's value is in defense. His offense has been consistently below average, as his career wRC+ of 88 confirms. The Nationals clearly wanted an offensive upgrade as well as insurance going forward. After 2016, the free agent class of second baseman is Emilio Bonifacio, Daniel Descalso, Yunel Escobar, Aaron Hill, Martin Prado, Sean Rodriguez, Justin Turner, Chase Utley, Luis Valbuena, and Neil Walker.
Signing Murphy essentially guarantees that the Nationals won't have to worry about second base until after the 2018 season. While they now have to forfeit their first-round pick in the 2016 amateur draft, Washington already has one compensation pick between the first and second rounds and should receive another once Ian Desmond signs.
Barring injury or loss of offensive production, it's hard to argue that the Nationals made a mistake by signing Murphy.
How this worked out for Murphy
No matter how someone chooses to spin his new contract, $37.5 million is a life-changing amount of money, but it appears that Murphy didn't play his hand as best he could, which very likely cost him a significant amount of cash. Before he eventually signed with the Nationals, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that Murphy held out hope he could remain a Met until the very end.
"The scrappy second baseman is among the significant group of players still searching for a new contract, after he kept vigil until the proverbial 11th hour, hoping the Mets would sign him to a new deal, according to industry sources.
One source indicated Murphy had not been aggressive in pursuing other opportunities because he was convinced he could still get a multi-year deal from the Mets -- despite team officials telling Murphy and his representatives they intended to go in a different direction."
Unfortunately for Murphy, his desire to remain with the Mets caused him to ignore or not seriously engage with other teams that had a need for a second baseman. By the time he realized he wasn't going back to New York, those teams had already found their respective solutions.
Teams like the Cardinals, Angels, Yankees, and White Sox all filled their infield needs through trades and shrank Murphy's market dramatically. As a result, there were fewer teams interested in his services, and his agent didn't have much leverage during the negotiations.
The fact that he was attached to a qualifying offer undoubtedly affected his value on the open market, but we're still left with the sense that Murphy could have gotten more money had his offseason strategy been different. For the Nationals, this appears to be a great signing, but for Murphy, he might be wishing for a free agency do-over.
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Matt Goldman is a Featured Writer with Beyond the Box Score and a Contributing Editor at MLB Daily Dish. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.