It’s probably worth taking a look at what the Mets have in Daniel Murphy.
Through a third of the season, Murphy now has an OPS+ of 121. That’s good for sixth among the 19 second basemen who are currently qualified for the batting title. And with the plan to let Murphy hit enough above average at the position that his below average defense makes him an average performer at second, that’s plenty of offense.
But Murphy has, per Ultimate Zone Rating, defied this plan so far by defending at an above-average rate. He’s lifted his UZR/150 from -13.3 last season to 5.2 this season, a massive improvement. With defensive stats especially, it is important not to jump to conclusions so quickly from small samples. His offense is in line with his career rates, roughly. But the Mets need to see more of this new defense before assuming it is his true talent level.
Still, the idea that Murphy could be a solid defender at second isn’t so crazy. He’s a fine third baseman. He’s now been at second for more than a full year, allowing reps and knowledge of the position combine with what was already strong range. All I’m saying is, this isn’t out of left field, whereas Murphy playing a competent left field would be.
A working assumption of mine, and I’m guessing, the Mets, was that Murphy’s defense meant he’d be, at best, an average 2B, and dealing him this winter for some help elsewhere while promoting Wilmer Flores to play the position next year wouldn’t mean losing much. And really, the lack of viable options to help the Mets win in 2014, even with Murphy, still might make that their best bet.
But as it stands, per wins above replacement, Daniel Murphy is the eighth-best second baseman in baseball, and one hot week out of cracking the top five.
The Mets may have a worse first baseman and shortstop than they thought. But they also may have a better second baseman than they had any right to expect.