Well, the Mets are reporting to Port St. Lucie in droves, and Terry Collins has begun to meet the media. Lots to discuss, but I wanted to focus on one particular comment by Collins yesterday: that his backup first baseman is Justin Turner, not Daniel Murphy.
This makes no sense at first glance, as pointed out by Patrick Flood on Twitter. After all, if Murphy and Turner are on the field, why would Turner, who doesn’t play first base, get the nod there while Murphy, who has been a gifted defender at the position, remains at second?
The answer, to my mind, is a simple one: the Mets have finally decided to see what they have in Murphy at second base.
We’ve been down this road before. Murphy’s career OPS+ of 111 is elite for second base. At first base, it is below average. In other words, we don’t know if Murphy can handle second base on a regular basis- but it is the only position he profiles as a big league regular for the Mets. (Well, he’d be good at third base, too, but for now that is occupied.)
This is why it has behooved the Mets to find out what Murphy can do at second base for years- a case I’ve been making, again and again. (And again.) It even appears they were prepared to do it last year, once Brad Emaus was dispatched back down the Rule V rabbit hole. Then Ike Davis got injured, and Murphy was the best alternative.
But the 2012 Mets, though both Murphy and Lucas Duda would be better options at the position short-term, have longer-term fish to fry. They need to know, yesterday, if Murphy can be their regular second baseman. And they need to know if Duda can play the outfield just well enough to justify his potent bat.
So without the means to bring in a legitimate backup first baseman- something the roster suffers from pretty much everywhere is a lack of a Plan B- Turner is the backup at first base. This isn’t great news, should the Mets need to use Turner this way- his bat doesn’t profile well at second base, let alone first base. But with an eye on the future, declarations like this go a long way toward reassuring me that the Mets are finally going to see what Daniel Murphy, Second Baseman is all about. It’s long overdue.