Daniel Murphy was one of the better hitters on the free agent market until he was signed by the Rockies on a two-year $24 million contract. This contract seems like a bargain when you consider Murphy’s performance during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He came second in national league MVP voting in 2016 and had an OPS of .985. He had a similar season in 2017 with an OPS of .928 and was a crucial player in two division winning teams, alongside fellow free agent Bryce Harper.
During 2018 Murphy regressed back to his career average numbers with reduced power. Although this offensive decline may have kept many teams away, the big difference was in Murphy’s defence. Murphy has never been known as a good defensive second baseman but in 2018 he was a liability in the field. According to defensive runs saved he was the worst second baseman in the league. At 33 years old it is likely that Murphy’s body can no longer handle playing second base. For this reason the Rockies will play Murphy at first base often.
Eventhough Murphy may not improve much as a fielder, He could easily get back to his best offensively in Denver. As a contact hitter he is well suited to Coors Field. Murphy should see more balls dropping for singles in the spacious outfield, similar to how DJ Lemahieu has benefited over the past few years. With Daniel Murphy already being a .299 career hitter he should be the overwhelming favourite for the batting title, as his average will surely increase in Colorado. He will also inevitably have a power increase playing for the Rockies.
Considering that Murphy’s underwhelming 2018 season was interrupted by injuries, it is not out of the question that he is once again one of the best hitters in the National League, if he is healthy.
With the Diamondbacks and Giants rebuilding, the NL west will likely be a competition between the Rockies and Dodgers in 2019. Murphy will join Nolan Arenado in the middle of the Rockies’ order and undoubtedly strengthens their lineup. Signing Murphy was the sort of move that the Rockies had to make with Arenado heading into the final year of his contract. Next year will likely be the Rockies last chance to seriously compete for a while and Murphy will help them do exactly that.
This deal suggests that the Rockies are going to give it one last go before Arenado is a free agent but they will need to add a second baseman with DJ Lemahieu leaving, assuming Murphy will mostly play first. Strengthening the outfield should also be a priority if they are going to compete after a disappointing season from many of their hitters.
Signing Murphy is a good start to the Rockies’ offseason business and could turn out to be one of the best moves that anyone makes this offseason. However, it only makes sense if the Rockies back it up with more ‘win now’ moves.