Each day this month you'll find at Let's Go Tribe a look back at one player's season as we attempt to sort out what happened and what that player means to the franchise's future prospects.
Position: Right Fielder
Acquired: Free Agent, 11-25-2013
Contract Status: Signed for 2015 ($6M) - Team option for 2016 ($7M or $500k buyout)
After the 2012 season, the Indians traded Shin-Soo Choo for a very nice package of players, including Trevor Bauer, and Bryan Shaw. But as good as the deal looks now, they now had a hole to fill in right field. Drew Stubbs, who they got from Cincinnati in that three-team deal, wasn't a great fit as a corner outfielder, and was traded to Colorado after the season. Nick Swisher, who was a right fielder while with the Yankees, ended up at first base because of a lingering shoulder injury. And so following the 2013 the Indians were once again looking for a corner outfielder.
Enter David Murphy, whose free agency came at a very poor time. After a very nice 2012 campaign, he hit only .220/.282/.374 (78 OPS+) in 2013 and so entered the market unsure whether he'd actually get a multi-year deal. The Indians did give him a two-year deal, though it was only for a guaranteed $12M.
For the two months of the season, it looked like the Murphy signing was a steal. He was one of the best hitters on the club in April, hitting a solid .282/.360/.436.* But as the All-Star Break approached, Murphy slumped, and then in August he strained his oblique muscle. Although he did return to action in September, it was pretty obvious that he wasn't at 100%. Murphy ended with a .262/.319/.385 (102 OPS+) line, which is not bad enough to demand an immediate change, but not good enough to cement his status as the Indians' right fielder, either.
Once thought of as a decent-to-good right fielder, Murphy was rated by most defensive measures a below-average to poor outfielder. It could just be that Murphy's peers improved, or perhaps he's losing a step as he enters his mid-30s.
2014 Grade: C-
As the Indians survey the trade market this winter, Murphy's contract shouldn't stop them from making a deal to upgrade right field. If they don't make a move, he'll be the starting right fielder, with players like Carlos Moncrief waiting in the wings should he struggle again.
*As someone who grew up watching shortstops post .800 OPS lines, I do admit that I've had a tough time mentally adjusting to this recent era of offense, where a .750 OPS line from a corner outfielder is considered good.