Though the sample is still too small to be reliable, I think I’ve seen enough to conclude that Donnie Murphy is a better SS option than Crosby for 2008. Much as I vent about Crosby’s shortcomings, this is a very tough call. Crosby offers range and experience Murphy lacks and as of this morning, Donnie Murphy’s batting average stands at .225, not even an upgrade from Crosby’s career average (.243) or 2007 season average (.226).
But there are enough things about Murphy that I really like so as to give him the nod over the known commodity whose known qualities—poor strike zone judgment, inability or refusal to adjust—make it easy to overlook his strengths. From what I’ve seen:
Murphy appears to have a true all-fields swing, combining an ability to turn on the ball with power and the capacity—and willingness—to drive the ball hard the other way. Given a chance to play everyday, I’d guess he could hit .270 with just as much power as Crosby. Note: After a 5/32 start, in his last 13 games Murphy is batting .271 with 4 HRs, 4 doubles, and 9 RBI in 13 games. Crosby has more raw power but Murphy simply has a better swing, and raw power is not what gets you HRs or even doubles. In sum, I believe Murphy could out produce Crosby at the plate in 2008.
Murphy lacks Crosby’s range but has the athleticism to learn and improve—never to Crosby’s standard but possibly much closer. The question is whether Murphy is coachable enough. From all reports, two years ago the answer was “no”—he was the Crosby of the Royals’ organization, one reason KC was so quick to let him go despite his ability, age, and the fact that Angel Berroa was proving to be worse by the day. But age is the key. Murphy was an uncoachable 22 year old, and those grow up. Crosby is an uncoachable 27 year old, and those generally become uncoachable 28 year olds. If I’m a betting man, I’m putting my money on Donnie Murphy to work hard and make necessary adjustments between now and next April. With his arm and overall athleticism, I think that average range would make him an above average SS.
Crosby’s injury was a mixed blessing. On one hand (literally), it provided Murphy with an opportunity that the A’s—stubborn as Crosby—would not otherwise have given. On the other hand, Crosby’s trade value—already declining with every slider low and away—dropped more when Crosby was not only denied a chance to finish strong and boost his numbers, but also renewed the perception that somehow he will find a way to get hurt.
If the A’s do not acquire a third SS option, do you favor rolling the dice with Murphy over Crosby in 2008? And if so, what is the best trade proposal you can come up with that involves Crosby, sends him to a team that might want him, gives the A’s something useful in return, and is reasonable for both teams?