The futures of Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores

Murphy FloresBen Zobrist is and has been an outstanding baseball player. He is injured right now but when he gets back onto the field he will go back to playing almost every day at all sorts of positions.

He has been described as a superutility player which to me means that he is a regular but not one tied exclusively to one position.

This kind of player, especially if he is a plus performer defensively in some or all of the places he plays, is quite rare. Josh Harrison was certainly worthy of the tag in 2014 when he played an excellent 3B but was quite adequate at 2B and in the outfield corners. He was stretched a bit as a SS. And unlike this year his bat was thunderous in 2014.

The Cubs hoped that Arismendy Alcantara could be their Ben Zobrist this year. But that flopped when the player did not hit and was demoted to AAA Iowa. The Mariners are now calling Chris Taylor their shortstop and Brad Miller, not happy about it at all, has been dubbed their superutility guy. I suspect this will not continue for more than a few months.

In my recollection that spans more than a half century of baseball watching there have been hundreds of utility players but only a rare few superutility ones. Tony Phillips enjoyed a long career with a number of teams and could adequately defend at a number of positions. Phillips, a switch-hitter, was usually a very dangerous batter when he faced a lefty and, alas, against a righty he was Kirk Nieuwenheis.

One of my favorite utility players in Mets history – and really he could be better described as a futility player – was Rod Kanehl who toiled for the sad sack Mets their first three years. Kanehl, pronounced “Ka-Neel” by everyone except Casey Stengel (who confused him for a small boat as he called him “Ka-Noo”) could play anywhere and could not hit a lick. He was a worse hitter than Rey Ordonez which makes him just a smidge more dangerous at the dish than our beloved Bartolo Colon.

All this brings us to a discussion of the keystone pairing that played most of April together, Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores.

Murphy might just qualify as a superutility player for the Mets or some team he is traded to. He could provide a team someone who can play 1B, 2B, and 3B and hit for a decent batting average. He is not in Zobrist’s league since Zobrist is a plus fielder in some spots and Murph is anywhere from a low minus at the corners to a high minus at 2B.

Wilmer Flores is more of an enigma since, first of all, his bat potential is undefined. None of us know exactly what kind of hitter he may become in the next few years. He is too ponderously slow to play the outfield but could offer the Mets or some other team a player who can be used anywhere in the infield. I suspect he might even be league average defensively at 3B or 1B. I tend to doubt he will ever be a hitter good enough to be a regular first sacker in the majors.

My strong suspicion is that no team will ever give him more than 40 games of play at shortstop after this year.

Once the Mets finally alter their shortstop situation, either by a trade or the promotion of Matt Reynolds, it will be very interesting to see what they do with Flores.

12 comments for “The futures of Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores

  1. Metsense
    May 16, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Flores is a better bench player than Tejada because bench players bat more than they field. Flores can hit home runs and Tejada can’t. I see Flores as a backup utility infielder on the Mets. Flores is a better 2B than SS and a better 3B than 2B (but Wright blocks him). At Flores age, I would hang onto him but I also feel that if he is part of the Tulo trade that he would be a Coors Field phenom.
    Murphy will sign a free agent contract and be that teams starting 3B. The signing team would be smart to only use him at 2B in emergency. Murphy at 8M plus a year has no future on the Mets because their are cheaper (Flores at utility, Herrera at 2B) options available.
    This post does not mean I am in favor of starting Flores over Tejada. I want an upgrade at SS.

    • Metsense
      May 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      I meant to say I don’t want Tejada or Flores starting.

  2. norme
    May 16, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Larry,
    I fondly remember Rod Kanehl. I think you could also have mentioned the slightly more talented (I think) Joe McEwing. And of course, due to the Dilson injury, we now have Eric Campbell again.

    • Larry Smith
      May 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Super Joe did slip my mind. Fun player, versatile, and also couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.

      • Patrick Albanesius
        May 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm

        I like Joe McEwing a lot. Justin Turner was a nice utility player for us, until we abandoned that project and are forced to watch another team reap the benefits. I love a good ol’ fashioned utility player. Murphy can be that, but I also think he needs to play 5 or 6 times a week. Maybe there is a team that could use him more effectively, but I like having him on this team.

  3. Hobie
    May 16, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    As soon as you mentioned Rod Kanehl I thought of the first time I thought the Mets where actually going to do something. It was a series in St.L. in 1962 when the top of the order (Ashburn, Kanehl) went 12/19in back to back games.

    Never paid much attention to streaks ever since.

  4. Peter Hyatt
    May 16, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Larry, thanks for an interesting article.

    I think you are right about not really knowing what Flores can do offensively. We need a larger sample and need him to be a position where he is comfortable. My guess is 3B, which I saw him play and thought him adequate. My guess to offense is a .270 hitter with 15 HR 70 RBIs and quite a few doubles. I don’t see him maturing into more than this.

    Interesting point of Matt Reynolds. Can he improve us defensively at SS and can he hit at the MLB level? It is time to try.

    Murph’s defensive liabilities have never been so amplified as they are with our trouble at SS. If we had a defensive wiz there, Murph’s .290 bat might be enough to accept his defensive limitations.

    Campbell struggled with us, and now is hitting .400 in Las Vegas. Ugh.

    I do not know the answer, offensively. I wasn’t happy with the Granderson signing, or how when he is cold, he is ice cold but remained in the line up, waiting for the hot streak. Kirk N has been a disaster off the bench.

    As to our pitching and bullpen issues my suggestion is likely to be met with a few chuckles, but I think a possible solution:

    Promote Matz to the starting rotation and consider Gee/Niese move to the bullpen for those middle innings where we desperately need help.

    I also think that we should have considered trading Bartolo before last night, as he is still reaching low 90’s and has had pin point location.

    This may be a stretch but Harvey may be more “veteran” leadership than we realize given to his insane drive to win. We have to find offense but I do not want any of our young pitchers packaged for anything over 30, including Troy T. It is too strong, too young and too exciting and should be built around. Zack Wheeler returns next year.

    Like others, I thought the Cuddyer signing wasn’t wise given his age, only. He sounds like quality veteran leadership and may heat up, but age, in spite of HGH, catches up to us all.

    We have this marvelous young pitching rotation and a solid CF.

    No matter how Travis D got injured, it is his history’s consistent event: injury after injury.
    Dilson Herrera is young and looks promising.

    But Granderson, Cuddyer and Mayberry…nope. Kirk N has surprised me on the poor hitting.

    As one of us at Mets360 said recently: we need therapy. 🙂

    • Larry Smith
      May 16, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you for a well thought out comment that advances the discussion.
      Except for putting Gee and/or Niese in the pen I tend to agree with pretty much everything you have suggested.
      Here’s a Twitter tweet I posted before today’s game:
      #Mets attitude seems to be “we’ll bring up everybody else from Vegas except Matt Reynolds even though he may be only guy that can help.”

      Why they refuse to give this guy a shot escapes me.
      There seems to be a commitment to playing people in positions they can’t handle. Murphy is undefined, Flores is definitely not a SS, and Granderson with his weak arm should not be in RF.

      Bad things happen to this team in part because of poor planning. They never got themselves an acceptable shortstop and barely addressed lefthanded relief until spring training was over. What’s this front office doing other than counting their money?

  5. Matt Netter
    May 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I’d love to see one of these two move into this role when Wright comes back. With infield rotations, rest days, injuries, DH and pinch hitting a guy like that can be impactful in 400+ ABs.

  6. Original Met
    May 16, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I thought you were going where I’d hoped you’d go in mentioning Zobrist, but you wound up just using him as an example. Given that the A’s are not likely to be contenders (13-24, last place) and certainly need pitching, and the fact that Zobrist is more a finishing piece for a contender than a core player for a mediocre team, why not go after him in exchange for, say, Gee, which should be enough given that Zobrist is a FA after this season. Given that he’s a winning and versatile player, he could be just what we need right now.

    • Larry Smith
      May 16, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      Actually that’s a good idea. For some reason I thought Zo was already a $10 million guy and therefore out of the Wilpon’s price range. But he’s not. Coincidentally I saw him mentioned just a few hours ago on an ESPN blog speculating that once he returns from his meniscus tear injury that he might go right onto the trade market.
      He’s a player who really could help the Mets’ dysfunctional defense.

  7. Patrick Albanesius
    May 16, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    While I would be thrilled to have Zobrist back, we do need to see him healthy first.. The Mets are about one more injury away from getting federal disaster relief aid.

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