The Cubs acquired Daniel Murphy in late August as a way to bolster their sputtering offense and provide an additional veteran presence down the stretch. He ended up being even more integral than expected, posting an .800 OPS with a 115 wRC+ while starting 32 games at second base and batting leadoff 30 times. Given that performance and the uncertainty with their middle infield situation, the Cubs might want to bring Murphy back for 2019.
Addison’s Russell’s future in Chicago is yet to be determined, but even if he’s still with the team he’ll miss over a month of the season serving out the remainder of his 40-game domestic violence suspension. So, hey, why not fill in for one controversial player with another? Murphy’s acquisition was met with much criticism and disappointment (subscription required, but I highly recommend reading) from those who couldn’t abide his public comments about homosexuality, and re-signing him will no doubt spur more of the same.
But the only thing that will factor most in the Cubs’ decision-making process is whether they believe a 34-year-old Murphy can come into next season healthy enough to hit like he has over the last few years. Or, more accurately, whether he can hit as well as he did at the end of his time with the Nationals and during his hot start with the Cubs.
After busting out of the gate with a .407 average (11-for-27) and 210 wRC+ in his first six games in a Cubs uniform, Murphy dipped to .270 and 91 with a .299 OBP. Not outright awful by any stretch, but not good enough to make up for his glacial movement in the field and on the basepaths. Perhaps his surgically repaired right knee will have improved enough by spring to even the scales a little bit.
If the Cubs believe that’s the case, they could very well keep Murphy around.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Theo Epstein told MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “He did a lot to right our offense right after he got here and contribute while being asked to play a bigger role than we envisioned when we got him because of injuries and because of a lack of performance offensively and because of the schedule.”
Epstein threw a lot of qualifiers in there, which indicates that they would not be bringing Murphy back to play a starting role. At least not without similar bouts of poor fortune and worse decisions with the rest of the roster. More than what he provides at the plate, it sounds as though the Cubs are more impressed by Murphy’s impact on his teammates.
“Our guys loved talking about hitting with him,” Epstein said. “It was a daily occurrence. We looked a lot better with him than without him.”
I guess this one should be filed under the “Sense of Urgency” tab as the Cubs seek to do a better job of “being completely on mission every day.” If they view Murphy as what Joe Maddon likes to call a force multiplier, a player who can have an impact even when he’s not in the lineup, you can see why there’d be an impetus to bring him back.
But how big are they willing to go for a guy who’s viewed as a high-end bench bat and de facto bench coach? My guess is that the Cubs would look at a one-year deal at around $8-9 million, something like what they gave Jon Jay in 2017 to serve a similar purpose. And if another club is willing to offer more money and/or years, more power to them.
Re-signing Daniel Murphy certainly shouldn’t be a priority for the Cubs, but his presence could serve to solidify the offense to an extent. Many other players could do the same, though, some of whom are younger and/or would command lower salaries. And, you know, wouldn’t create unease among a not-insignificant segment of fans.
I’m pretty much agnostic to the whole thing from a purely baseball perspective, which is to say I don’t disagree with it 100 percent.