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Rox or Roll: Daniel Murphy never hit in Colorado

Drew Creasman Avatar
October 20, 2020

Welcome to our offseason series, Rox or Roll, where we take an overview of each Colorado Rockies player to determine their value and outlook moving forward.

Does this player continue to represent the Rox? Or is his time with Colorado on the downswing and he should roll on up out of here.

Our second player analysis is first baseman Daniel Murphy.

1. Summary of 2020

Coming into the organization in the 2018-19 offseason, Murphy was immediately seen as a replacement for the beloved DJ LeMahieu and tasked with expectations of becoming a big bat in the middle of the lineup.

While he broke his left index finger less than a week into his first campaign, he would still show flashes of the doubles machine so many had envisioned. Ultimately, it fizzled out to a lackluster season.

The raw and advanced stats showed him to be just a bit under league average, but all can agree it was by far the worst offensive campaign of his career.

At least until 2020.

For the first couple of weeks this season, the 35-year-old was one of the best hitters in baseball. It looked like this was precisely the player for which the Rockies had been hoping.

Once again – and without any specific injury or reason to point to – it was a disappointment.

It fell apart so badly that in the final month-and-a-half of 2020, he was maybe the worst player in MLB.

2. The season in stats

Slashline: .236/.275/.333, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 10 R

wRC+: 44

OPS+: 41

fWAR: -0.9

bWAR: -1.0

3. A stat you should know

His negative -1.1 fWAR once he got cold was the worst mark in the majors, meaning he may have been the worst player in baseball over the final months.

4. Role in 2021

Murphy is a designated hitter at this point in his career.

Wherever he lands, no team in their right mind would pencil him in the lineup at first base. He’s never had a true position before and, as such, has never been a good defender. And it has only gotten worse.

Going into his age-36 season, any team hoping to get anything from Murphy will be hoping for it exclusively at the plate.

5. Long-term projections

He has the ability to stick around the game for a few more years if he can find success in the DH role. With another terrible season, though, it could mark the end for Murphy’s career.

6. Contract status

Murphy and Colorado have a mutual option for 2021.

If accepted by both parties, Murphy would return for one year at $12 million.

If Colorado decides they don’t want to pay that, which is incredibly likely given his performance thus far, they’d still have to pay him a $6 million buyout.

Math wizards will likely note that parting ways with Murphy will save the Rockies $6 million and a roster spot this season.

7. Trade Value

Almost none.

8. Intangibles

He’s a pretty funny guy and will probably make a great hitting coach one day. Rockies players have been very vocal about how often they pick Murphy’s brain on the finer details of hitting.

His production on the field leaves a world to be desired. It should be noted, however, for a team that has struggled with chemistry since the departures of Gerardo Parra and Carlos González, Murphy brings that kind of energy.

9. Rox or Roll?

DC: Roll.

He’ll probably put up one more good season with the bat but it has to be somewhere else. Colorado can’t afford to keep risking playing time on him, especially when that requires he play first base, a task for which he is dismally suited.

They’ve got to reallocate those resources to parts of the roster in desperate need of some tuning up.

PL: Roll.

The Rockies were able to keep at least 28 players on the roster for the entirety of the 60-game season. Unless more changes are brought about for 2021, Colorado will have to cut some fat for the 26-man roster going forward.

Regardless of the fact that keeping Murphy will only cost the club an additional $6 million, that money is best spent elsewhere. Between Josh Fuentes, Brendan Rodgers, Garrett Hampson and even a returning Ian Desmond, Colorado can figure a way to get some production at first base.

Besides, that $6 million can cover the cost of a mid-market outfielder (right-handed hitting, of course) or even two uninspiring relievers who have had some success in the recent past. Neither would move the needle in a major way, but it would certainly help a troubled bullpen and provide much needed offensive depth to the roster.

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