In his seventh season with the New York Mets who drafted him and developed him, second baseman Daniel Murphy put together a .281/.322/.449, 38 double, 14 home run, 2.5 fWAR regular season in which he appeared in 130 games and made 538 plate appearances, then caught fire in his first postseason run, hitting two doubles and seven home runs in 14 games and 94 PAs, over which he had a .328/.391/.724 line.
Murphy, 30, set himself up well for free agency, declining the Mets' qualifying offer and eventually signing on with New York's NL East rivals from D.C.
In his introductory press conference in Washington, the veteran infielder talked about joining the Nationals and looked forward to the day when he would have to take on his former team. He told reporters in the nation's capital that a few of his now-former teammates reached out to him after he signed with the Nats.
"I got a lot of congratulatory texts from the guys I used to play with," he said. "David [Wright] and [Jacob] deGrom, even the manager, Terry Collins, reached out to me.
"I enjoyed the time in New York. It was a lot of fun, some great relationships were made, but my wife and I are really excited about the relationships we're going to be able to make here and the opportunity that I think we're going to be able to put ourselves in for 2016."
He knew, however, that he was going to have to face his former team on a regular basis, but said he could get any awkwardness out of the way early.
"I think the fact that we'll be able to play against them in Spring Training should help to alleviate some of that," Murphy explained.
"To be able to go up to [Port] St. Lucie or have the Mets come to Viera will kind of help get me ready, so to speak, for when that happens."
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this week, Murphy talked about joining the other side of the divisional rivalry.
"I think I've gotten to know quite a few of the guys in the Nationals' clubhouse before, when we played them so many times when I was in New York and the rivalry is definitely heating up," Murphy said.
"And that's exciting, not only for the [NL] East, it's exciting for both cities, because that means both cities are good, and they've got talented ballclubs. So it should be a lot of fun this year, to see who can take down the division. I know we're excited about it, and so, from that perspective, I don't think much will change, just wearing a different uniform."
Mets' skipper Terry Collins talked to reporters yesterday about the prospect of facing Murphy for the first time when the two teams meet in Grapefruit League action this afternoon.
"Real weird. Real strange," Collins said, as quoted by NJ.com's Maria Guardado, "but that's the game.":
"We gotta move on. It'll be nice to see him. He's got a lot of friends on this team, and I'm one of them. It'll be nice to see him, but after the initial, 'Hi, how are you doing,' we gotta play."
The addition of Murphy's bat and contact skills was part of the Nationals' attempts to change their lineup this winter, after they lost out to the Mets in the NL East race last season.
In the press release on the signing, Murphy's contact skills were highlighted, with the Nationals noting that the left-handed hitting infielder, "... posted the lowest percentage of swinging strikes (6.9%) in the National League in 2015, along with the highest contact percentage among all NL hitters (91.0)."
He also struck out just 38 times total in his 538 PAs last season, the fewest Ks by a left-handed bat among players who appeared in at least 115 games.
In his own interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. this week, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked about what the addition means for the Nationals' lineup.
"I think you go and identify players that you think fit the mold of the type of team that you want to have, the manager that's going to lead them and I saw Murphy play way too many times to not appreciate his skill set," Rizzo said.
"He's been a National League killer... he grinds out at bats, he's a tough out. He puts the bat on the ball. He hits good pitches and good pitchers and all that stuff is obviously important for us, but he brings to us a sense of toughness, a sense of really getting down and dirty and playing the game the right way.
"I know that's a cliche, and it's overused quite a bit, but he really does go about his business the right way.
"He's a great teammate, left-handed, that balances us up a little bit with Ben Revere, which we were looking to do in the offseason, but you've got two guys who grind out at bats, who put the bat on the ball, who can run and do a lot of things offensively. Offensive efficiency was a point of emphasis this offseason and I think we've achieved a lot of the goals that we were looking to do."
Revere and Murphy are atop the lineup for the Nationals against the Mets this afternoon, hitting first and second, respectively, in front of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in the second game of the Spring.
Game Time: 1:05 PM EST from Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium.