David Murphy Should Stay With Cleveland Indians (For Now)

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It’s no secret that the Cleveland Indians have a surplus of players that can man right field, first base, and of course designated hitter including Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, and Ryan Raburn.

On top of that trio the Tribe also has David Murphy who can play right field which leads one to this question: how in the heck does manager Tito Francona find plate appearances for all these guys?

The easiest way to clear up some of the logjam would be to trade Murphy, which may still happen, but manager Terry Francona sounded as if he was expecting all the aforementioned players in camp telling Paul Hoynes of Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer:

"“There is some uncertainty there with health  You walk that fine line. You have guys who expect playing time, who are used to getting playing time, but at the same time we can’t let our season be derailed by the unknown.“I think Chris did a really god job protecting us and at the same time communicating with the players and saying ‘this is where we’re at.’ I think it’s going to make us a better team and protect us from the unknown.”"

Health concerns will remain for the trio of Nick Swisher (surgery on both knees on August 20), Ryan Raburn (knee surgery September 14), and Brandon Moss (hip surgery October 23) into spring training.

Having Murphy as a strong side platoon partner (.268/.328/.399 vs RHP in 2014 [Season Review Here]) to open the season would allow the Indians to take their time with any of the trio with their recovery.

Trading him now may not make sense as his value may not have reached anywhere near peak and some would say it probably couldn’t drop much more between now and opening day. Despite having a manageable salary of $6 million in 2015 and possibly two years of control ($500K buyout on a $7 million club option in 2016), there are plenty of left-handed hitting outfielders available on the open market.

Led by Colby Rasmus, who may be willing to sign a pillow contract and look to reestablish his value, Ichiro Suzuki, who would be willing to sign a one year deal, and Nori Aoki who is rumored to be looking for a three-year deal.

Joining Murphy on the trade market is David DeJesus of the Tampa Bay Rays, who, like Murphy, is under team control for two seasons at a reasonable cost. He is owed $5 million in 2015, and the Rays hold a club option for 2016 for $5 million with a $1 million buyout.

Additionally, the Los Angeles Dodgers could be willing to move Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford and eat some of the salary.

Ethier is owed  a minimum of $56 million over the next three seasons including $18 million in 2015 and 2016, $17.5 million in 2017 and $2.5-million buyout for 2018, which is a vesting option based on plate appearances, and is worth $17.5 million.

Carl Crawford is owed $62.25 million, including $20.5 million in 2015, $20.75 million in 2016 and $21 million in 2017.

Moving Murphy in a crowded market would probably not return much to the Indians – especially when we consider that another left-handed outfielder Matt Joyce only fetched the Tampa Bay Rays two years of reliever Kevin Jepsen from the Los Angeles Angels.

The Indians would be wise to hold on to Murphy into spring training, as by then Ichiro, Rasmus, and Aoki will have found homes, the front office will have had a chance to gauge the rehabilitation status of Moss, Swisher, and Raburn, and hopefully no other injuries strike the Tribe’s remaining outfield corp.

If the injury bug bites another team, Murphy will become an attractive option, and in the grand scheme of trading him is his value any higher now than it would be at some point in spring training?

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