A few days ago Tito Francona declared that new acquisition Brandon Moss was "streaking through" his rehab. (Let's hope that Johnny Manziel doesn't decide to emulate him.) Moss underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip, since when it has always been questionable as to whether he would be ready for opening day. However, Moss says that he already knows the exact date when he will be cleared for games, so it can't be too far off. It's certainly still possible that Moss will be restricted to a DH role to start the season, but if indeed he is fit enough to play the outfield then David Murphy would become pretty much redundant in an OF that already contains three LH hitters (Bourn/Brantley/Moss).
Murphy himself has already hinted that he wouldn't be averse to playing elsewhere: "I think everybody can logically see that there's only so many spots out there for so many players," Murphy said. "I'm prepared to lose playing time, but not to the point where I'm going to get 150 at-bats. If that's the case, and that's the best-case scenario for them and for me, I'm open to [a trade]."
Murphy is due $6MM in 2015, with a $7M team option for 2016 that carries a $500K buy-out. In the current climate of MLB climates that's not a huge contract, but with 1 WAR valued at around $6-$7MM it's not an attractive one. After a stellar performance in 2012, Murphy is coming off back-to-back replacement level seasons according to fWAR: 0.4 in 2013 and -0.5 in 2014. Now aged 33, Murphy doesn't have time on his side so he isn't an obvious bounce-back candidate.
The problem for Murphy last year wasn't so much his hitting (101 wRC+ last year) as his sub-par fielding in RF. The Rangers rarely used Murphy in RF, and last year the Tribe found out why - he would appear to be much better suited to LF than RF.
Also notable is Murphy's significant career splits against RHP/LHP - over 150 points difference in OPS. Ideally he wouldn't be called upon at all to face left-handed starters, but the Tribe's RF issues last year (specifically, the fact that Raburn wasn't effective as the other part of the platoon) meant that he started 14 games against LHP. Clearly, the fact that Murphy isn't an everyday player diminishes his appeal for any potential trade partner.
On the plus side, Murphy is a popular personality in the clubhouse and might potentially act as a good mentor on a team that has many young hitters.
So, which teams might potentially be interested in acquiring Murphy?
There's the rub, of course. No-one is going to beat down Chris Antonetti's door to acquire a platoon player who is a sub-par fielder and holds a $6MM contract.
Baltimore: Having lost Markakis and Cruz in free agency, the Orioles OF is thin, wth Travis Snider (acquired in a trade with the Pirates), Alejandro de Aza and Delmon Young occupying three of the four spots. I'd imagine that the Orioles will start the season as is, but they are only one injury away from needing help in a hurry.
Toronto: A couple of weeks ago Michael Saunders went down with a knee cartilage injury that was originally believed to be likely to sideline him until mid-season. However, Saunders opted to have the damaged cartilage removed rather than repaireds, and after a successful operation he should now miss just the first few weeks. When I pointed out recently that the Blue Jays had signed a minor league deal with Dayan Viciedo, Ryan rightly burned me with "They still need a right fielder, then." But whatever, even with Saunders back the RH-centric Blue Jays are relying on the inexperienced Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey to fill the CF/4th OF spots, so an OF trade acquisition can't be ruled out.
Chicago White Sox: Although they acquired Melky Cabrera as a free agent, Rosterresource has JB Shuck as a projected OF bench player for the White Sox, so there isn't much depth there. Given that RH Avisail Garcia hasn't fully established himself in RF yet, a platoon with Murphy might make some sense.
Minnesota: None of their OFs are even league average. The 39yo Torii Hunter might not be able to withstand playing every day, whereas neither Hicks, Arcia nor Schafer has a career fWAR of even 1.0.
Houston: Rasmus, Springer and Marisnick comprise a decent set of starters, but Alex Presley is the 4th OF...so there's a chance.
Texas: The scene of Murphy's finest years. Given Choo's demise, Leonys Martin was their only consistent OF performer last year, although Smolinski hit really well in limited appearances. You'd imagine that Murph ought to make a better platoon partner for Smolinski in LF than Nate Schierholtz.
Atlanta: The Braves have five(!) new outfielders for the 2015 season, but only Nick Markakis and Eric Young recorded positive fWAR in 2015. Jonny Gomes is obviously safe, but Yankee rejects Almonte and Perez wouldn't make the 25-man on many other rosters.
Cincinnati: Even though the Reds traded for Marlon Byrd in December, they lack a solid 4th OF to go with Byrd, Jay Bruce (whose form vanished last season) and Billy Hamilton. The fact that the Reds got to see Murphy at first hand last week might not count in his favor.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates don't have much in the way of good OF depth after Andrew McCutcheon, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.
Next to no chance
The Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers all have a surfeit of OFs and are more likely sellers rather than buyers, providing competition within the trade market:
Boston: There's been plenty of talk about the Red Sox shifting either Allen Craig, Shane Victorino or Jackie Bradley before the season opener. In the off-season they acquired Hanley Ramirez to play LF and they also have a horde of good MLB-ready OF prospects: Rusney Castillo, Brock Holt and Mookie Betts.
LA Dodgers: Reportedly, the Dodgers are willing to eat half of OF Andre Ethier's remaining $56MM contract, which has three years still to run. Source
San Diego: After stockpiling OFs via trade (Kemp/Myers/J.Upton) the Padres now need to find a taker for Cameron Maybin, Will Venable and/or Carlos Quentin.
A whole bunch of other teams appear to be very much set in the OF as well:
NY Yankees: Hard to see an opening here with Gardner/Ellsbury/Beltran all set and Chris Young re-signed as the 4th OF.
Tampa Bay: The Rays already have five OFs on their projected 25-man: Jennings/Kiermaier/Guyer/DeJesus and the newly-acquired Steven Souza. There's no room for Murphy there.
Detroit: Following the acquisition of LF Yoenis Cespedes and CF Anthony Gose, the Tigers look set in the OF with J.D.Martinez moving to RF and Rajai Davis as the 4th OF.
Kansas City: Gordon/Cain/Dyson/Rios comprise arguably the best fielding OF in baseball.
LA Angels: Trout, Calhoun, Joyce and Cowgill. Enough said.
Oakland: If the A's had wanted Murphy, it would have happened as part of the Moss deal. Reddick, Fuld, Crisp and Gentry form one of the older OFs in baseball - they might look to get younger, but not older with Murphy.
Seattle: The Mariners traded for Austin Jackson last summer and then Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano this off-season. They are probably done trading for OFs for the time being.
Arizona: Given that Mark Trumbo (-1.3 fWAR) and Cody Ross (-1.2 fWAR) are on the 25-man, you'd think that the RH-centric DBacks might be able to use Murphy. Sadly, however, those two players are due to earn $6.9MM and $9.5MM respectively, so it just isn't going to happen.
Colorado: Once Carlos Gonzalez returns from knee surgery, the Rockies will be five-deep in the OF with Gonzalez/Dickerson/Blackmon/Stubbs/Barnes.
San Francisco: Having acquired a similar player in Nori Aoki over the off-season, the Giants don't really have room for Murphy in what is already a rather LH-centric line-up. The announcement that Hunter Pence is likely to miss the first month of the season probably doesn't change anything.
Miami: The Marlins recently signed Ichiro Suzuki as 4th OF behind the stellar trio of Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna.
NY Mets: After adding Michael Cuddyer in free agency, the Mets have a solid-looking OF that includes Juan Lagares and lefties Granderson and Nieuwenhuis.
Philadelphia: The Phillies already has a starting OF that comprises three LH hitters: Revere, Brown and Sizemore. Unlikely they are looking for another one.
Washington: Span and Harper are OF linchpins, and the Nationals expect Nate McLouth (coming back from a torn labrum) and prospect Michael Taylor to fill the other spots.
Chicago Cubs: During the off-season the Cubs acquired Dexter Fowler and Chris Denorfia to complement Chris Coghlan and top prospect Jorge Soler.
Milwaukee: Carlos Gomes, Khris Davis, Ryan Braun and Gerardo Parro make a solid foursome.
St Louis: The Cardinals traded for Jason Heyward in November and have a deep OF with Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos and Randall Grichuk.
So, where do you think Murphy might end up?