"You've got the best player in the National League, possibly on Earth, hitting third for you every night," said Murphy of Harper, when asked at his introductory news conference what drew him to Washington.
The 30-year-old infielder comes to the Washington Nationals after spending the entirety of his seven-year career with the division-rival New York Mets. During the past four seasons, he's squared off regularly against Harper, the former No. 1 overall pick who debuted with Washington in 2012 and who last year became the youngest player to win the MVP award by a unanimous vote. Murphy and the Mets finished seven games ahead of a Nats squad that was a popular pick to make it to the World Series. Instead, it was New York that won the NL East and advanced all the way to the Fall Classic. Now, after signing a three-year, $37.5 million deal to play in D.C., Murphy is teammates with Harper.
A contact hitter who carries a .288 lifetime average, Murphy struck out just 38 times last season and posted a 7.1 percent whiff rate, the lowest in the majors. He also set a career high by hitting 14 home runs and was key to New York's postseason run, homering in a record six consecutive playoff games.
"I don't know if I can keep hitting home runs," Murphy said on Thursday, "but I sure hope so." Known more for his offense than his defense, Murphy made critical late-inning errors in the final two games of the World Series, both of which the Mets lost en route to a 4-1 series defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.
"I would have preferred to catch that ball in Game 4 and Game 5, but I didn't," said Murphy, a natural third baseman who converted to second after reaching the majors. "I think it's an opportunity to take a step back in the offseason and realize that there's work to be done defensively."
In November, despite his defensive shortcomings and fresh off a postseason in which he was named MVP of the National League Championship Series, Murphy received a qualifying offer from the Mets that would have paid him $15.8 million for one year had he accepted it. Instead he declined it and opted for free agency, ultimately signing with Washington. Per the current collective bargaining agreement, because the Mets made a qualifying offer to Murphy, they will receive a compensatory pick at the end of the first round of the 2016 amateur draft.
With the Mets, Murphy also spent time at third base and first base in addition to second base and played some left field. In Washington he's expected to replace second baseman Anthony Rendon who moves back to his natural third base position after the December trade that sent Yunel Escobar to the Los Angeles Angels. The left-handed Murphy also adds balance to a Washington lineup whose only other projected left-handed-hitting starter is Harper.