Cubs Acquire Daniel Murphy, Fans Collectively Scratch Heads

Whatever the reasoning, the Cubs have acquired former Mets and Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy in a waiver deal, as first reported by the Athletic’s Robert Murray. Murphy is also known for his reprehensible, hateful comments in 2015, when he stated that he “disagree[s] with the fact that [former MLB player and MLB Ambassador for Inclusion Billy Bean] is a homosexual (sic).” Heading to Washington is High-A middle infielder Andruw Monasterio, who has managed a career minor league OPS south of .700 in almost 1400 plate appearances. It’s a meager return for a player who fields like a statue at his primary position, has no defensive versatility, and has hit slightly above league average this season. The Cubs will reportedly send cash or a player to be named later to the Nats as well.

Maybe Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were watching “highlights” from the 2015 NLCS this week. Maybe they thought, “four second basemen on this roster isn’t nearly enough.” Maybe they thought their roster, as currently constructed, was actually too inclusive.

After two seasons of offensive dominance in Washington, when he posted .985 and .928 OPS marks and placed second behind Kris Bryant in 2016 MVP voting, Murphy has settled in as a slightly above league-average hitter once again. He’s hit .300/.341/.442, good for a 105 OPS+, a 108 wRC+, and a .280 TAv, with characteristically small walk and strikeout rates. He’s hit well of late—.343/.375/.545 over the last month—and offers high contact skills for a team that has sought contact the past few years. Presumably, he will play second base most days, with David Bote remaining at third base and Ben Zobrist remaining in his utility role.

There are a few ways to interpret this deal, all of them comparatively bleak. The first is that Addison Russell will likely head to the disabled list, which probably should have happened weeks (months?) ago, since Russell has submitted his second straight season of offensive decline after just barely sniffing league average in 2016. Of course, there was no need for the Cubs to trade for Murphy in order to DL or bench Russell: the team could easily slide Javier Báez to shortstop and play Zobrist, Bote, and Tommy La Stella at second and third base until Bryant returns. A defensive configuration with Báez at short and one of that trio at second would be a downgrade, but the offensive boon would more than make up for it.

The deal for Murphy also portends bad news regarding Bryant, who has been sidelined for weeks with a sore shoulder. Murphy offers them a safety blanket if Bryant isn’t able to return before the playoffs, or if he returns and hits poorly. There’s a chance the Cubs prophylactically acquired Murphy, in case Bryant’s shoulder doesn’t allow him to return; there’s also a chance that they are skeptical that Bryant will return at all, and that they play to play Murphy at second base almost every game and in the playoffs.

At this point, the uncertainties surrounding this team are greater than they have been in a few years. The 2018 Cubs are probably better than the 2017 Cubs, regardless of injury, but it’s hard to feel good about this team as currently constructed, with September and the playoffs looming. There are a few things we do know, however. One is that Addison Russell is starting at shortstop tonight and hitting ninth, so he might not even head to the disabled list. Another is that Daniel Murphy is not the hitter he was in 2016, and that he might not even be particularly good anymore. And ultimately, there’s quite a bit not to like about this deal, both from a baseball perspective and from a human perspective (although, I should note, the former should always defer to the latter).

Murphy has said hateful things, and the Cubs have once again acquired a player who has said or done harmful things, while they continue to spout paeans about “makeup” and “character.” While Billy Bean has spoken about Murphy’s willingness to speak with Bean about what they have in common, fans do not owe Murphy the same patience. There are also countless other players in MLB who hold the same views as Murphy, but who remain anonymous (and, as we recently saw as several players’ hateful tweets resurfaced, there are many who are no longer anonymous). Murphy voiced his hateful thoughts, and the only consequence he received was a $37 million contract.

This Sunday, the Cubs will host Out at Wrigley once again. Considering the Cubs’ lack of reluctance in acquiring players who have been abusive, violent, or hateful, there is little chance that the organization’s decision making has changed, or will change. Trading for Murphy is a blow to any hope for a more inclusive culture in Cubs baseball, and the message to those who would critique the club for such a move is clear. Daniel Murphy is a Chicago Cub, but who is listening?

Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports

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8 comments on “Cubs Acquire Daniel Murphy, Fans Collectively Scratch Heads”

Clark Addison

Zack, your one-sided comments reveal more about you than about Daniel Murphy.

Amen. … This is a HUGE pick up for the Cubs. Murphy is one of the top hitters in ALL of baseball and has recently found his stroke. The Murphy Rizzo 1,2 or 2,3 etc. those 2 hitting back to back are as clutch as it gets. Cubs fans should be excited about this 1/4 season rental. This shows why Epstein and co are as good as it gets and I doubt haters are singing the same song when the Cubs are back in the World Series.

Kevin McCaffrey

Clark, heroic comment without your real name attached. And yeah, it says that Zack cares about the human side of a human game, played by humans. Keep being anonymous bro! (Also apologies if you are literally named “Clark Addison.” Mainly, apologies to your parents.)

Jeff Kranz

I agree! We already knew Murphy is a homophobe so I suppose nothing new was revealed here about him and now we know what a great human Zack is.


What an awful negative article. From a baseball perspective Murphy has been hurt and just recently started hitting again, you think he’s completely done because he’s been just an above average hitter while he’s been on the field?

And why does every writer take the moral high ground with stuff like this? I suppose you’ve lived a perfect life. And Murphy doesn’t deserve to work because you think he hates gay people. Quit being so sensitive, good lord. Not even one piece of optimism about this trade? Probably thought the same of Hamels deal.

Here’s something indisputable, Theo and Jed know more about baseball than you do. I know that hurts, sorry.

Zack Moser

Murphy literally said he “disagrees with the gay lifestyle” and used the offensive term “homosexual.” There’s no interpretation needed to know exactly how he feels about gay folks, and any person who cares about others would call this out.

Please let me know when Cole Hamels says the same hateful stuff and I’ll change my tone about that trade, but if you do one ounce of research you’ll see that I praised that pickup highly.

Also, this isn’t even really about baseball, and if you only want to hear the front office’s opinions about their own moves, then why do you still read this site?


Homosexual is an offensive term? Since when?

So because Murphy said something in an interview years ago he’s an inhuman monster? You take the moral high ground on a guy because of that? You don’t know him personally, you know nothing about him except an interview you read. You don’t know if he’s changed, you don’t know if he’s grown.

If you’re going to do a piece like this then go talk to his friends, family, people he has had run ins with, former teammates, coaches. You tell me to do research, when you’ve done precisely zero. You think he’s a a terrible guy? Do an investigative piece instead of spouting your hatred for one thing that he has said.


it seems reasonable to ask that a writer for this publication spend more time justifying their moral indignation at a business decision made by this team. It is not the first time that very strong and consequential claims have been made without due dilligence

The ironic and challenging part of this is that it’s moral indignation related to soneone else’s expression of moral indignation. everyone acts as if the moral values they happen to hold are the only ones others should hold, the only ones that have absolute justification, but everything is much less certain. we all stand in shifty moral footing.

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