The Washington Nationals are delighted to have Daniel Murphy’s bat back in the lineup. However, with AL games running out, they need to find a home for him.
Daniel Murphy made his long-awaited return to the Washington Nationals last Tuesday. Thankfully, it came at a good time, when they could deploy the designated hitter. But now those games are running out, and they should consider using him at first base in the coming weeks.
In his first two seasons with the Nationals, Murphy had generally been a below-average fielder at second base. In those years, he had a negative 24 Defensive Runs Saved at second. And that was before his off-season knee surgery.
In his only eight games at the position since that surgery, with the Harrisburg Senators, he made six errors. It’s becoming clear he’s not able to play the position any longer.
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During that very same rehab assignment, he did end up playing two games at first base. In his career he’s actually been serviceable there, with a positive 19 DRS. He broke even at zero DRS during his 151.2 innings at the position for the Nats in 2015.
But the key to a permanent position change is that Murphy would need to be getting regular plate appearances. Finishing second in the MVP voting in 2016, and a two-time All-Star while in D.C., he’s one of the most valuable bats on the team.
Although Matt Adams has generally fared well at first, arguably being the team’s most consistent hitter this year, Daniel Murphy is a potentially game-changing bat.
With Murphy’s health, it won’t completely phase out Adams from the starting lineup. Of the two, Adams has the ability to be average playing in the corner outfield.
Don’t expect to see Murphy in the lineup seven days a week, maybe not even six, especially to start off with. But if they can get him five starts a week at first base, then they can use Adams, Mark Reynolds or Ryan Zimmerman to fill in the gaps.
The decision to move Murphy is also made easier by Wilmer Difo starting to come into his own this year too. He’s provided good defense at second base, and although he’s been slumping at the plate of late, his bat has been solid enough. This helps the ball-club massively in the short and long term.
The Washington Nationals are going to need Daniel Murphy in their lineup if they are going to turn around the offensive inconsistencies. So the team’s management needs to get creative with his playing time, given his diminishing defensive ability.