In a last-ditch effort to save the offense, the Chicago Cubs traded for Daniel Murphy at the waiver deadline. His impact wasn’t enough to right the ship.
Over the course of the past four seasons, Daniel Murphy has emerged as one of the top pure hitters in all of baseball. He has also established himself as one of the top Chicago Cubs killers in the National League.
Ever Since Murphy’s 2015 NLCS performance, when he dominated Cubs pitching, Murphy has been widely regarded as one of the most clutch hitters in the game. During the Mets four-game sweep of the Cubs, Murphy went 9-for-17 (.529) and homered in each of the four games. He was awarded NLCS MVP for those exploits.
By adding a familiar foe to the Cubs mix in late August, Epstein figured to be bringing in a player who was capable of carrying the load offensively, while shoring up a thin middle infield.
Disappointing Cubs tenure
When Murphy donned a Cubs uniform, he was asked by manager Joe Maddon to fill the team’s void as the leadoff man. Despite his lack of experience in that role, he obliged. Murphy did a fine job, hitting .297 with 13 home runs as a Cub.
He also provided a veteran presence to the Cubs locker room and received high praise from his teammates for his leadership. Nonetheless, he was incapable of resurrecting an offense that Epstein admitted “broke” down the stretch.
Despite Murphy’s offensive prowess, he’s always been a sub-par defender, and he’s only gotten worse with age. In 2018, Murphy set a career-low with -18 Defensive Runs Saved combined between his time with the Cubs and Nationals.
The Cubs were clearly a better defensive team when Murphy wasn’t on the field. Between Javier Baez, David Bote, Ben Zobrist and Tommy La Stella, the Cubs had the ability to form a middle infield tandem with far better defensive capabilities than any combination that included Murphy playing second base.
By trading for Murphy, Epstein determined that the Cubs offensive struggles were bad enough to sacrifice defensively for an upgrade to the lineup. All in all, Murphy came as advertised.
Should the Cubs re-sign Murphy?
At 33-years-old, Murphy still has a lot to offer any team. His status as one of the league’s top offensive performers remains. He continues to provide professional at-bats against top pitching and doesn’t appear to be slowing down in that regard. With that being said, I don’t think he’s a fit with this group.
Regardless of what the Cubs decide to do with Addison Russell, Murphy likely won’t figure to be in the team’s plans. At this stage of his career, Murphy is best suited for the American League, where he wouldn’t be required to play defense. Hopefully, Murphy’s work ethic and approach at the plate rubbed off on some of the Cubs young position players going forward.