NEW YORK -- The Mets' inevitable breakup with Daniel Murphy is official, his polarizing tenure in Flushing at an end. Murphy on Friday rejected the Mets' one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer, preferring to canvas the free-agent market for a multiyear deal. As such, he effectively severed ties with a Mets team that is unlikely to pursue him under such parameters.
Murphy had until 5 p.m. ET Friday to weigh the Mets' offer, which guarantees them a compensatory Draft pick if he signs elsewhere. The team never realistically expected Murphy to accept, knowing the one-sided history of qualifying offers -- no one had accepted one until Houston's Colby Rasmus on Thursday, though he was followed by the Orioles' Matt Wieters and the Dodgers' Brett Anderson on Friday -- and the value of Murphy's skill set on the open market. At 30 years old, Murphy has a chance to cash in on a multiyear deal for the first time in his career. The Mets always expected him to pursue that.
Still, the team would have been willing to accommodate Murphy had he surprised them and accepted, extending an eight-year tenure filled with marked highs and lows.
Murphy arrived in the big leagues in 2008 as a mid-level prospect without a position. The Mets initially tried him in the outfield and first base before settling on second -- an experiment that never would have worked had Murphy not proved so proficient at the plate, averaging .291 with a .752 OPS, 10 home runs and 11 steals in 140 games per year from 2011-15. Working with hitting coach Kevin Long for the first time this season, Murphy changed his profile at the plate, adding power by pulling the ball more frequently.
Murphy's career culminated this October, in a month that was a microcosm for his eight years with the Mets. During the National League Division Series and the NL Championship Series, he was "Babe Murphy," swatting seven home runs in nine games -- four of them against NL Cy Young Award candidates Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta. In the World Series, Murphy was something less, committing key defensive lapses in Games 4 and 5. His fielding error in the first of those games allowed the Royals to score the tying run in the ninth, and it may go down in history as Murphy's most memorable moment as a Met.
Still, Murphy's offensive performance in October convinced the Mets to extend him a qualifying offer. They anticipated he would reject it, netting them a Draft pick, and were at peace with that outcome given the alternative: Dilson Herrera, a 21-year-old second-base prospect who hit .327 with 11 home runs in 81 games at Triple-A Las Vegas this season.
Though the Mets are not necessarily committed to starting Herrera every day at second next season, they are comfortable with him as a baseline option. The team could still conceivably acquire a high-priced shortstop such as Ian Desmond, or promote Matt Reynolds to the big leagues and -- in either case -- move Wilmer Flores to second base. Or the Mets could sign a super-utility infielder such as Ben Zobrist to start most days at second, if they are not entirely comfortable with Herrera.
All that's clear right now is that the second-base starter almost certainly won't be Murphy.