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Outfielder David Murphy to Indians: does it add up?

By August Fagerstrom Published: November 20, 2013

Late Tuesday night the Indians agreed to terms with 32-year-old outfielder David Murphy, according to several reports.

The contract is believed to be worth $12 million over two years with a club option for a third year.

Murphy will likely find the bulk of his playing time in right field as a platoon partner with Ryan Raburn.

Murphy, who has spent the past seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, has been roughly a league-average hitter over his career, with an OPS+ of 104 and a slash line of .275/.337/.441. However, he really makes his money hitting right-handed pitching to the tune of a 113 career OPS+ and a .280/.347/.469 slash. OPS+ is on-based percentage plus slugging percentage with ballpark effects factored in. An OPS+ of 100 is considered league average.An OPS+ of 100 is considered league average.

His 113 OPS+ against right-handed pitching paired with Ryan Raburn’s career 121 OPS+ against left-handed pitching projects to be a perfect platoon in right field, a position where the Indians received only a 99 OPS+ in 2012.

Murphy is coming off a down year in 2012, posting a career-worst 77 OPS+ with a .220 batting average.

However, Murphy also had a career-worst .227 batting average on balls in play, one of the lowest numbers in the league and a stark outlier compared to his .302 career rate.

Nothing in Murphy’s 2013 batted ball mix (19.3% line drives, 43.1% ground balls, 37.7% fly balls) stands out from his career rates (19.2 LD%, 44.2 GB%, 36.6 FB%), suggesting the outfielder was quite unlucky in 2012 and can expect a rebound in batting average, making the contract a nifty buy-low for the Indians.

Murphy is also an athletic outfielder who can play all three outfield positions and supplies above-average defense in the corners, something the Indians reportedly valued in him.

With the market rate of a win above replacement (WAR) being worth roughly $6 million, Murphy barely has to be worth 2 WAR over the length of his two-year contract to “earn his money.” That shouldn’t be a problem as he has averaged 1.7 WAR per season over the past three years and was a 3.9 WAR player as recently as 2012, according to FanGraphs.

For comparison, Murphy’s 5.1 WAR over the past three seasons is not far off from Michael Brantley’s total of 5.7 WAR in the same time span.

The deal likely means the end of Drew Stubbs days as a starter with the Indians. He might still be kept on the team in a backup CF role, or could be traded or non-tendered.

August Fagerstrom on Twitter: @AugustF_ABJ

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