Mets' options at first base, early trading block names, more notes
It's hard to understand why Daniel Murphy hasn't been given a chance at first
Five potential trades the Mets could make to address their needs at first base
An extensive list of players who could hit the trading block later this summer
The Mets are probably going to need to trade for a first baseman (more on that below). But in the meantime, few scouts can understand why Daniel Murphy -- the former fair-haired boy -- isn't getting a full crack at first base in Carlos Delgado's absence.
He's supposedly the "heir apparent" to Delgado at first base (at least that's what several team honchos decided this winter/spring), and he's allegedly in the first base rotation. Yet, Murphy has exactly zero starts at first so far. Fernando Tatis is getting most of the starts there, while even journeyman outfielder Jeremy Reed has gotten a tad of time there.
One scout said, "What's confusing is that Murphy's easily the best hitter of the bunch ... to not have him in the games on a regular basis, well, I don't get it."
What's more, Murphy, a third baseman in the minors, is currently killing them in the outfield. So why the heck not?
Another scout predicted, "He'd be at least as good as Tatis. And Delgado ... he'll be as good as Delgado [defensively] at first."
Of course, scouts can take a longer-range look at things than managers (Jerry Manuel, in this case, whose contract only runs through 2010). Yet, Murphy was considered a phenom only a few short weeks ago. And then only a few days ago, in a hunch gone horribly wrong, Manuel was hitting journeyman Angel Pagan for Murphy in a crucial situation.
Eventually, with Delgado out 10 weeks by the Mets' estimation (and that may be optimistic), everyone understands that the best move may be to find a first baseman in trade. And as far as that goes, here are the looming options, in order of likelihood:
1. Nick Johnson, Nationals: "He's back to being the old Nick Johnson.," one scout said. Johnson is hitting .333 and has a .432 on-base percentage. "Probably their best option. Above average on both sides of the ball when he plays," another scout said. The issue, of course, is that he's been hurt so frequently that any acquiring team would have to cross its fingers and pray (both would be needed). The Nats need young pitching, so a match can be made.
2. Aubrey Huff, Orioles: A consistent producer for the Orioles, he quietly had a huge year last year, finishing third in the AL in total bases with 330, and is hitting well again this year. But he's not as solid an all-around player as Johnson. "Not a good fielder and another base clogger, which we don't need," one Mets person said. But at least he stays healthy.
3. Russell Branyan, Mariners: Could Branyan (.310 average, 10 homers, 20 RBIs) be on the verge of something special? Or is he a flash in the pan? He's finally showing the consistent power scouts predicted years ago. But he's had flashes, and chances, before. So who knows?
4. Victor Martinez/Mark DeRosa, Indians: Cleveland's not giving up just yet. How can they wave the white flag with their big preseason expectations and awfully balanced division? But these are two to keep an eye on in a few weeks if the Mets still need a first baseman, especially DeRosa; Cleveland is already fielding offers for the versatile 34-year-old whose contract is up after the season. You'd have to know Mets people would love Martinez, who could transition over to catcher if Delgado returns sometime this season. Brian Schneider's probably better than Martinez defensively, but many Mets people generally have little use for any of their catchers, so this would work out perfectly. But, said one NL scout of Indians executives, "They'd have to be drunk to trade [Martinez]."
5. Garrett Atkins, Rockies: He's been a third baseman in Colorado, so first base would be an adjustment for him.
In the meantime, the Mets say they will employ the rotation that allegedly includes Murphy, the fair-haired boy turned forgotten man. "Murphy is going to hit left-handers," one scout insists. "I don't get why they don't give him an opportunity."
Frankly, neither do I.
Early trading block names: The long list
Here's an extensive list of players who could hit the trading block this summer ...
1. Jake Peavy, Padres, SP: Has pitched beautifully, though the $60 million remaining through 2012 doesn't look quite as cheap as it did in the early winter, when the Braves and Cubs were begging. The Cubs remain a possibility, and the Brewers could be, as well. Peavy has a full no-trade provision through next year and indications are that he prefers to be in the National League and in the Midwest or West.
2. Matt Holliday, A's, OF: GM Billy Beane mentioned in a recent phone conversation that he wouldn't mind taking the two draft choices, and as one competing exec mentioned, "they're valuable now," so they aren't obligated to deal him. But a trade remains a distinct possibility if Oakland doesn't turn things around.
4. Cliff Lee, Indians, SP: Cleveland never made a multiyear offer to him, and while it has a reasonable $8 million option on him for 2010, his price tag shoots up next year as his trade value starts to slip.
5. Jarrod Washburn, Mariners, SP: He's 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA, so he can help someone. But Seattle's previous regime probably should have just taken the Yankees' proposal to take his contract for $11 million a year last summer.
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