There was a New York Post article where former GM Sandy Alderson was quoted as saying that he wished he had re-signed Daniel Murphy. It’s an easy thing to say in hindsight. Murphy was great in 2016 and 2017 before an injury-marred year last season. But you don’t get to make decisions in hindsight and the decision in real time was easily a defensible one.
They extended Murphy the Qualifying Offer (QO) and he rejected it, instead looking for a multi-year deal. Murphy got the multi-year deal but only after the Nationals had been turned down by other free agents they chased that offseason. And Murphy’s multi-year deal did not reach the average annual value that he could have had if he took the QO.
Just as Alderson says that he regrets not re-signing Murphy, you could make an excellent case that Murphy blew it by not signing the QO. Murphy signed a 3/$37.5 contract with the Nationals and this offseason he inked a 2/$24 deal with the Rockies. If Murphy had signed the QO, he would have gotten $15.8 million in 2016, nearly twice as much as the $8 million he received that year in the heavily-backloaded deal he ended up signing with Washington.
But then Murphy would have been eligible for free agency again, without any draft pick compensation, as the Mets wouldn’t have been able to extend the QO again. And he would have been hitting free agency after a season where he put up a .985 OPS and finished second in the MVP voting. If he was able to get a 2/$24 deal this offseason, coming off a .790 OPS as a 33 year old, what would he have been able to get two years earlier at significantly greater production?
In the 2016-17 offseason, Ian Desmond got 5/$70 and it’s hard to imagine that Murphy wouldn’t have beaten that mark. Dexter Fowler got 5/$82 that offseason and while you can claim that he got that much because he was a center fielder coming off a good offensive season, he had an .840 mark, or 145 fewer points than Murphy. Was the position worth that much compared to the production shortfall? Maybe but it seems to me far from a slam dunk.
The top free agent contract handed out that year was the one given by the Mets to Yoenis Cespedes, who got 4/$110 after his .884 OPS season. What would the Mets have done if they had to choose between Cespedes and Murphy? It might have been a fortuitous thing if they had that choice and opted for the home-grown player. But that’s far from a sure thing. Regardless, it seems reasonable, perhaps even conservative, that Murphy could have gotten a 5/$80 deal that offseason.
So, by rejecting the QO, Murphy ended up with five years and $61.5 million. With the QO, the speculation here is that he would have received $95.8 million over six years.
Whenever Alderson was interviewed, he always came off as extremely bright, if not always completely honest. If we were somehow able to get the truth from Alderson, it would be interesting to see if his biggest regret was re-signing Cespedes to that contract in the 2016-17 offseason. So far, the Mets have paid him $51.5 million and have received $20.4 million of production, according to FanGraphs’ Dollar Value calculation. And that deficit figures only to increase this season, when Cespedes is expected to miss at least half the season.
ESPN’s David Schoenfield listed the remaining two years of Cespedes’ deal as the worst contract on the Mets, surpassing even the 5/$100 the club owes Robinson Cano for his age 36-40 seasons. Time will tell which one was worse but either way, the Cano deal did not happen on Alderson’s watch.
But as a Mets fan, my belief is that the biggest regret of the Alderson regime was not the failure to re-sign Murphy nor the actual re-signing of Cespedes. Instead the wish here is that he would have overhauled the way the club handled injuries earlier than the 2017-18 offseason. It was an inherited problem and one that reared its ugly head in one way or another each year he was in charge. So, why did he wait so long to say this needs changing?
How many bad starts by Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler could have been avoided with a more professional communication/diagnoses/treatment regimen? Would this system have gotten to the root of Cespedes’ hamstring problems earlier? Would it have meant different outcomes for Dillon Gee and Mike Pelfrey? And that’s not an exhaustive list, either.
And if somehow you want to limit this theoretical discussion to personnel moves, we should also mention Alderson turning down Eduardo Escobar for Gee and the chain of events around that move. Escobar has put up a .750 OPS in the four years since the Mets turned their nose up at him while Gee ended up 0-3 in his final eight starts with the club after they missed their chance to move on from him. And when they didn’t get Escobar for short, they ended up playing Wilmer Flores there. That was a pretty big fail all the way around.