Indians Make a Move, Sign David Murphy


David Murphy to Join the Indians for Two Years and $12-million

The Cleveland Indians are on the board. After remaining relatively quiet for the first few weeks of the offseason, they threw their hats into the free agent ring by coming to an agreement with outfielder David Murphy. The deal, which was reported late Tuesday night, is believed to be for two years and worth $10-million total $12-million with a club option for year three (per Paul Hoynes Twitter account).

David Murphy comes to the Indians after spending the better part of the past seven seasons with the Texas Rangers. During that time, Murphy served primarily as an extra outfielder. lending his skill set as the left-handed hitting side of a two-man, left field platoon. And while fans may not be very excited by this signing since it lacks and sort of dramatic flair or superstar potential, it is a sneaky good signing that may not only provide a substantial return, but could also provide them with some much-needed flexibility. More on that in a second.

Aug 19, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder David Murphy (7) drives in two runs on an error against the Houston Astros during the third inning of a baseball game at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

What the Indians get in David Murphy is a player who has played the greater majority of his games in left field, but is also capable of playing either of the other two outfield positions, particularly right field. For his career, he has a respectable slash line of .275/.337/.441 with a 104 OPS +, 86 home runs and 364 RBI. Where his real value will come into play is against right-handed pitching. In his career, Murphy is batting .280/.347/.469 with 79 of his 86 career homers coming off of righties. Paired with Ryan Raburn, the Indians should have a rather formidable right field platoon.

However, Murphy is coming off of a slightly down year with the Rangers in 2013 and is probably what made his signing with the Indians possible. Nolan Writin details his poor season and fall with the Rangers here. At the age of 31, he hit only .220/.282/.374 in 476 plate appearances in 2013. A prolonged slump ultimately did him in. As he continued to struggle at the plate he lost more and more playing time before being almost completely replaced in Ron Washington‘s outfield rotation. As a result, Murphy will go from making $5.8-million in 2013 to only about $5-million in 2014, a relative bargain for a player who was worth 3.5 bWAR in 2012 and 10.9 bWAR for his career (editor’s note: we have since learned fhe deal is two years $12-million with a club oprion for year three).

As previously mentioned, though, the real selling point of the David Murphy signing is the added flexibility it will provide the Indians not just on the field come Opening Day, but also as the offseason continues to play out. Suddenly the Indians outfield has become very crowded. Between Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, Drew Stubbs, Murphy, and even Nick Swisher, there may not be enough innings or at bats to go around. This brings us back to a story we had already reported on – trading Drew Stubbs.

Stubbs is a nice player given his combination of speed and defensive ability in the outfield, but with his salary set to increase to about $3.8-million in 2014 he may have officially become expendable. With one year of team control left after this season, he may be an attractive trade piece for some team desperate for outfield help, particularly in center field. With the Indians outfield now set with Brantley, Bourn, Raburn, and Murphy, there is really no need to keep Stubbs on board when that projected salary can be reinvested elsewhere, say starting pitching.

In the meantime, the signing of David Murphy is a smart investment and is one that we here at Wahoo’s on First were promoting as early as last week. Our very own Ed Carroll pushed for the signing of Murphy in the most recent episode of Wahoo’s on the Mic. If he can regain his form, and perhaps all needs in order to do that is a change of scenery, the Indians could have solid player and a nice power bat coming off of the bench.