this developing issue at 2nd Base, where the Mets have a popular, albeit limited incumbent, Daniel Murphy, and a young, almost-ready-for-prime-time challenger, Dilson Herrera.
Currently, both are in the lineup because David Wright is hurt. That's not news. But at some point over the course of the season, and nobody seems quite sure when that's going to be, but eventually, David Wright is actually going to come back and play Baseball, as most Baseballers tend to do. Obviously, this means someone, between Murphy and Herrera, will have to take a back seat. Conventional wisdom would dictate that the 21-year old Herrera would return to AAA and Murphy would reassume his spot at 2nd Base, where he will provide slightly-better-than-cringeworthy defense.
Here's why that's probably the wrong choice.
Never mind the defense. Murphy has already proven that he's as good as he's going to get, and not just with a glove, but overall. Daniel Murphy was an All Star last year, and yes, he's one of those guys that came up and played really well as a Rookie, and that sort of endeared himself to all Mets fans forever, but since that stretch run in 2008, he's been mostly underwhelming. Not that anyone ever thought Daniel Murphy was going to turn into Chase Utley or anything (or maybe people did—although I can't imagine why) or at best maybe a low-rent Neil Walker, but I tend to look at the year Murphy had in 2009 and think that's about his average level of play. .266 average, .313 OBA, .427 SLG, 12 Home Runs, 63 RBI, 38 Doubles. And if you go down his career, he really hasn't deviated from this baseline. And this, of course, is his output for a season where he started hot, finished hot, and spent about 3 months in between pulling Josh Tholes 3 times a night while hitting .248. But that's not just 2009, it's every year for Daniel Murphy and at age 30, he's not going to do better than that. Defensively, well, we just shake our heads and hope for the best. After 5 years now trying this Second Base thing, he's still making those same yipesy, awkward mistakes and perhaps no play better exemplified his fielding prowess than the incident last night where he managed to tag a runner out at 3rd base basically by accident, after he charged a ball he shouldn't have charged and then backpedaled into the path of the baserunner while catching a throw. That's Daniel Murphy.
Dilson Herrera, on the other hand, also made 15 Errors as a second baseman last year, which is the same number Murphy had. Herrera, however, was also 20 years old and splitting time between High A and AA ball. He also made up for that by hitting .323/.379/.479 with 13 Home Runs and 71 RBI. In High A and AA ball at Age 20. This earned him a callup late in the season where he managed to hit .220/.303/.407 with 3 Home Runs and 3 Errors in 18 games, but again, 20 years old and a small sample. Before getting called up to the Majors this season, Herrera was only hitting at a .370/.402/.506 clip in AAA. This is mostly to illustrate the point that at Age 21, Herrera has proven he can get the job done offensively all the way up the ladder, so that he hasn't done so at the Major League level over a handful of games shouldn't be of great alarm just yet. His defense will probably improve over time to a level of less suspect than Murphy.
Big picture, Herrera has that one thing that everyone loves: Upside. Murphy won't make the Mets any better than he does right now, and that's not saying much. Herrera, who multiple talking heads say will be an All Star for years, potentially could make the Mets better. That's the point here. Let's face it. With Free Agency impending, Murphy stands a good chance of not lasting the remainder of the season with the team, and that's fine. Murphy can do some nice things for a nice little ballclub, but if the Mets want to act like a contender here, they need to show a little teeth. Showing up in St. Louis with Daniel Murphy hopping around isn't going to change anyone's opinions. Dilson Herrera might never end up any better than that, but the potential exists that he could be that kind of a player. That's what the Mets need right now. A little juice. Herrera could bring that to the table, instead of grounding out to 2nd Base for 3 months straight.