Mets have tough choice on dealing or keeping Daniel Murphy

The Mets' Daniel Murphy runs to the dugout The Mets' Daniel Murphy runs to the dugout after grounding out against the Atlanta Braves in a game at Citi Field on Monday, July 7, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

advertisement | advertise on newsday

David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City ...

Daniel Murphy is almost everything the Mets want in a hitter. A line-drive sprayer who doesn't need shorter fences and is selective at the plate, he not only has bought into the team's plate philosophy but has thrived under it.

His game is largely unaffected by Citi Field, an intimidating place that can get in the head of a player. In Murphy's career, his stats are virtually identical in and out of Citi.

At Citi: .292/.333/.422. On the road: .290/.333/.421.

Murphy, 29, is having a breakout season, with more hits (106) entering Monday night than Robinson Cano, a better OPS (.758) than Dustin Pedroia and a first-time invite to the All-Star Game in Minneapolis.

It took tryouts at four positions for him to finally stick as an everyday player, but Murphy has become the team's second-longest-tenured player behind David Wright.

"He's a good example of a guy that has blossomed and flourished under this regime," Wright said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

And now, after all that, the best thing for the Mets is to trade him?

Only if Sandy Alderson gets an offer he can't refuse.

There's a demand for Murphy, and the Blue Jays -- who along with the Giants and A's are in the market for a second baseman -- had a scout at Monday night's 4-3, 11-inning win over Atlanta.

Will any of these teams come up with a suitable package for Murphy? We definitely can see that happening.

But just how motivated is Alderson to move Murphy, whose value is at an all-time high? In talking to people familiar with his thinking, we get the sense he's not totally committed to the idea despite the Mets' ability to absorb the loss.

The team is itching to get another look at Wilmer Flores, who is seeing time at second base for Triple-A Las Vegas and was named PCL player of the week after hitting six homers and driving in 16 runs in his last eight games. He is batting .373 (19-for-51) with 20 RBIs since his demotion, and with the Mets needing a backup shortstop, he'll probably force them to release Chris Young in the near future.

Further away is Dilson Herrera, who is hitting .329/.390/.486 since his recent promotion to Double-A Binghamton.

So the Mets have some young insurance for Murphy, and with the expectation that he'll get about $9 million through arbitration for 2015 -- he will be a free agent after '16 -- Alderson must consider the financial ramifications of keeping him.

But if the Mets are serious about fielding a competitive team next season, can they afford to start over again at another position? Murphy has worked to become an adequate defender at second base, and with Wright home, he'll be the face of the Mets at the All-Star Game. There is some value in that, especially for a franchise with self-esteem issues. The only other homegrown All-Star in the past decade was Jose Reyes.

Murphy is not Reyes, obviously. But he is a skilled hitter, with a profile that fits a specific need for the Mets. Terry Collins recalled when they tried to make Murphy more of a pull-hitting power guy. Now the challenge is to find that type of player somewhere else, leaving him alone.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I think that's why Dan is the kind of hitter he is -- because he's tough to defend," Collins said. "You never know where he's going to hit it."

The Mets, under the tutelage of the fired Dave Hudgens and now Lamar Johnson, have attempted to clone Murphy's approach in what they envision as their perfect lineup. It hasn't been easy.

"He's been huge," Wright said. "He's an RBI threat from the two-hole, where you wouldn't expect it, and he's versatile, able to hit anywhere in the lineup."

Therein lies the attraction for other teams. And the difficult choice for the Mets in deciding Murphy's fate.

You also may be interested in: