VIERA, Fla. — After nearly 10 seasons in the Mets’ organization, Daniel Murphy is wearing Washington Nationals’ red instead of blue and orange, along with a new number. Those aren’t the only adjustments he’ll have to make.
Murphy said he doesn’t know where he’ll hit in the order. Dusty Baker, the Nationals’ new manager, said he will talk with him soon. Infield coach Chris Speier had his first brief conversation with the second baseman Tuesday afternoon.
Murphy hit .421 with seven home runs and 11 RBIs in the 2015 playoffs to help propel the Mets into the World Series. The MVP of the NLCS sweep of the Cubs, he said he wanted a multiyear offer from the Mets. But they made him only a one-year qualifying offer, then traded pitcher Jonathon Niese to the Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker. In a walk year before potential free agency, Walker will be paid nearly $10.6 million this season, more than the $8 million Murphy will get.
Murphy set about finding a spot with another team “committed to winning” and agreed to a three-year, $37.5-million contract with the Nationals, likely the Mets’ only serious rival in their quest to defend their NL East title.
“The years and dollars weren’t the most important thing,” he said. “It should take me 30 lifetimes to spend $37.5 million. I’ve already made more than enough money. I’ve been real ly blessed.”
Speaking of his new teammates, he said: “It’s a great group of guys. You can see how many guys got in here early.”
Nationals pitchers and catchers were due to report last Friday. Position players are not due until Thursday, yet many were already in camp and working out alongside Murphy, who checked in Sunday. Murphy said he only knows most of them from “playing against them 20 times a year.”
Bryce Harper, Murphy’s new teammate and the reigning NL MVP, sent the first shot across the bow Monday when he told an ESPN writer: “The team to beat are the Mets. That’s what it is right now. They kicked the crap out of our division last year, and hopefully we’re going to come in this year and do what we can to knock them off, or anybody else off in all of baseball.”
On Murphy’s back now is No. 20 instead of 28, which he wore with the Mets. Outfielder Jayson Werth wears No. 28 for Washington. Murphy said he picked 20 from a list of available numbers the Nationals sent him. “I wanted a number in the 20s and chose 20, not realizing it was Ian Desmond’s number,” Murphy said of the Nationals’ former shortstop who remains a free agent. “If we get Desmond back, he can have it.”
Murphy said that because the Mets played into November, he was more careful about his offseason activities, which included the birth of his second child, daughter Quinn, Dec. 4.
“Fatherhood definitely puts things in perspective,” he said. “I’ll be a father a lot longer than I’ll be a ballplayer.”