You really can’t ask for a better first season with a new team than Daniel Murphy’s first with the Washington Nationals.
Coming off a postseason run with New York in his seventh season with the Mets, Murphy had an another-level breakout in D.C. in 2016.
Murphy put up a .347/.390/.595 line, 47 doubles and 25 home runs over 142 games and 582 plate appearances, finishing the season at a career high 156 wRC+ and career-best 5.5 fWAR.
Murphy was asked this winter what his offensive goals were for the second season of the 3-year/$37.5M deal he signed with the Nationals, and he said it was simply to try to “give away less at bats,” noting that his approach at the plate, “... is probably one of the things in my control.”
“You’ve seen enough guys go out there and [hit] four bullets in a ballgame and have nothing to show for it,” Murphy explained, “so the process is within my control and staying engaged for 162 games is within my control as well.”
He talked in his introductory press conference in the nation’s capital last winter about improving defensively as well, after some high-profile errors in the postseason and less-than-stellar defense during his time in New York.
Murphy’s Bench Coach, Chris Speier, was impressed with what saw from the Nationals’ second baseman in their first season together.
“I really think he did a great job,” Speier said this winter.
“From an offensive standpoint it was fun to watch. Defensively, I was really happy with his play last year. And he’s looking forward again to working and doing what he’s capable of doing. I was 100% satisfied with what he did. There was talk before that he’s below average, but I thought he did a great job last year for us.”
Murphy’s new teammate Adam Eaton, who doesn’t have a big contract to live up to, but was acquired in a deal that sent two of the the Nationals’ top pitching prospects to Chicago’s White Sox in a three-for-one deal, was asked if he looked to Murphy as an example of how to handle the pressure of performing with a new team?
Eaton said he had actually spoken to Murphy after the trade, though his new teammate didn’t offer any specific advice that he shared.
“My message to him was the same for me,” Eaton said. “He was just like, ‘Hey, let’s get it going. Game on. We’re pumped to have you. We’re excited that you’re here,’ and basically, ‘Let’s get to work.’ And that’s kind of my theory as well. Let’s get to work. We want to make it to the playoffs, we want to get far in the playoffs.”
Eaton’s coming off a .284/.362/.428, 29 double, nine triple, 14 HR season which saw him put up 115 wRC+, finishing at a career-best 6.0 fWAR.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked after the deal that sent Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 1st Round pick Dane Dunning to the White Sox, about why he made the deal and what Eaton brought to the Nats’ lineup.
“He hits for average,” Rizzo said. “He's a contact guy. He gets on base. He's got some power. He plays great defense. He throws outstanding. He's got a great arm that's accurate. He throws runners out.
“As far as the analytics, he comes from a high WAR as a corner outfielder. We feel he is going to be a solid performer in center field. And he's a tough out. He grinds out at-bats. He rarely swings and misses. He puts up a good at-bat when needed. And we feel that, his make-up, attitude, position and flexibility was something that was important to us.”
How will Eaton deal with the pressure of being acquired in exchange for two of the top pitching prospects in baseball, in a deal that was widely criticized/questioned for what Rizzo dealt to Chicago?