Jul 9, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder David Murphy (7) bats against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field. New York won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Murphy’s Hopes to Build on 2014’s Success
During the winter heading into the 2014 season, the Indians made several signings that fall into their typical line of thinking. That being, find the undervalued and under appreciated player with a chip on his shoulder. Maybe he’s coming back off of an injury. Perhaps a sub-par season the year before has many wondering if he is washed up. Whatever the case, the approach can be likened to finding lightning in a bottle… on a budget.
Enter David Murphy.
Up until the 2013 season, David Murphy had put together a respectable run of success during an early stint with the Red Sox, but more notably the Texas Rangers. In his first six seasons in Texas, Murphy put together a slash line of .285/.347/.453 with 72 homers and 317 RBI. As a key member of a team that made it to the playoffs in three straight seasons, including two straight world berths, he had become a fixture in the back-end of the Rangers’ everyday lineup, particularly against right-handed pitching.
Then 2013 happened and the wheels fell off of what had been to that point a promising career. During the course of the 2013 season, Murphy posted career worsts at the plate, .220/.282/.374. While he still managed to hit 13 homers and drive in 45 runs, it was not done with anywhere near the consistency or regularity that it had during the previous six seasons. At the age of 31, many wondered whether or not the best of David Murphy had come and gone. Or, was it a case of bad luck and a .227 BAbip?
That’s what the Indians and many other teams, including the Rangers, were left to wonder. Given his track record and age there was reason to believe that David Murphy had plenty of quality baseball left in him. So, on the heels of their first official playoff appearance since the 2007 season, the Indians signed Murphy to two-year deal worth $12-million to become a platoon right fielder, sharing the work load with Ryan Raburn, the previous year’s diamond in the rough acquisition.
So how did it go for Murphy in 2014? Well, it went a lot better than it did in 2013.
Jun 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder David Murphy (7) hits against the Texas Rangers during the game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Indians defeated the Rangers 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
In 129 games for the Indians, Murphy showed considerable improvement over the abomination that was his 2013 season in Texas. He posted a .262/.319/.385 slash line and drove in 58 runs, However, the improvement was not nearly what the Indians had hoped for. Murphy’s power continued to decline in 2014, he hit only 8 home runs, and his overall performance at the plate was barely better than league average, 102 OPS+. Combine that with the regression seen out of Raburn and the Indians right field situation was less than ideal throughout the course of 2014.
That begs the question. Should the Indians consider moving David Murphy prior to the start of the 2015 season? If that is something they would be interested in, then one has to wonder what the market is for a 32-year-old outfielder that appears to be on the downside of his career? Is there even a market? It’s unlikely and even if the Indians could find a suitor for Murphy’s services it is just as unlikely they would receive anything of legitimate value in return. The best they could probably hope for is a low-end minor league prospect.
Giving Murphy an outright release would also be out of the question. While the Indians only owe $6-million this season for his services, the Indians are not in the type of lucrative situation where they can pay $6-million dollars for a player to not play for them.
For those reasons it appears likely that David Murphy will be on the roster come Opening Day 2015. At the age of 33-years-old, there is still a chance that Murphy can put together one more season of solid production. If he can duct tape together three solid months, perhaps the Indians can move him to a contender in need of a left-handed bat. At that point, the Indians could afford to pay off the remainder of his 2015 salary, somewhere around $3-million, and get some of a little higher quality back in return. If the Indians are out of contention by the non-waiver trade deadline, one has to think that this scenario becomes all the more likely.
That said, you can’t fault the Indians for putting two years worth of faith in David Murphy. He had shown a level of consistent production during his career that could lead anyone to believe that 2013 was an out liar. So while 2014 was not the return on investment they had hoped for on the field, he did reward them with an excellent clubhouse presence and example for the younger players on the roster. As a veteran of two World Series chases, there are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from him. At the very least let’s hope that is the case, no matter how 2015 plays out for Murphy and the Tribe.