As the trade deadline passed in 2018 the Chicago Cubs had only made a few minor deals. Though those deals ended up working out very well for the team, namely in the bullpen, the front office wasn’t finished. Enter a waiver wire trade for Daniel Murphy.
Position: Second Base
2018 Stats: With the Cubs, Murphy slashed .297/.329/.471 with a TAv of .284, a BRR of 0.7, an FRAA of -1.1, and a WARP of 0.7.
Year in Review: In June, Murphy returned from an injury to try and help the Washington Nationals make a playoff push. When a David Bote grand slam off Ryan Madson essentially ended the Nationals’ 2018 playoff hopes, they began to shop the veteran second baseman around. The Cubs were keen to add a bat to an offense that had underwhelmed and underperformed all year. Murphy seemed to make sense, purely from an offensive production standpoint.
The thing is, Murphy is such a terrible defender that his offensive numbers need to be off the charts to justify playing him in the field every day. Unfortunately, with the Cubs, his defense at second base was just as bad as it had ever been—and perhaps worse, following knee surgery—and his offensive production was lacking. He was thrust into an unfamiliar leadoff role by manager Joe Maddon, and Murphy never quite looked comfortable in that spot. Add in the fact that Murphy is just a hair slower than molasses and the idea of him as the guy on base ahead of your big bats is pretty damn funny.
Murphy never really found his way at the plate for the Cubs in 2018. Down the stretch, he was decidedly average, but that’s not what the Cubs needed from Murphy. They needed him to excel, to mash, to be the offensive force he had been in previous years. That never came to pass for Murphy, and the Wild Card game was emblematic of Murphy’s short season with the Cubs. He went 0-for-4 with 1 intentional walk and looked below average in the field.
Looking Ahead: Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of Murphy in a Cubs jersey. He’s a free agent in 2019, and I see very little chance the Cubs re-sign him. They have better options on the team in the form of Javier Báez, or if they don’t sign a certain shortstop and do sign a certain outfielder, then Ben Zobrist is a better everyday option with Bote also being worthy of some reps at the position. Free agent-wise, Marwin González should be a target for the Cubs and he can play a very capable second base. There’s also DJ LeMahieu, and I’d much rather see Gordon Wittenmyer’s small adult son at the position than Murphy. That’s more a reflection on Murphy than LeMahieu.
All those are valid reasons for not re-signing Murphy. But, perhaps even more importantly, Murphy has been unapologetic about his past harmful comments regarding the LGBTQ community, and his signing did not sit well with many Cubs fans. I was one of those fans, and I’ll be honest, his presence on the team made it hard to root for the Cubs as the season wore on. I’m not going to tackle his off the field comments and how he was problematic for the club, the club’s image, and an insult to a minority fanbase of the team every time he took the field. Instead, I’ll just tell you to seek out the work of Kelly Wallace and Ken Schultz, who both did a far better job of articulating the problems with Daniel Murphy the person on the Chicago Cubs. I will say, though, that for all the reasons listed above, Murphy should not be a member of the Cubs organization in 2019.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports