MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

'Twas the Nat before Christmas: Dan deal!

'Twas the Nat before Christmas: Dan deal!

WASHINGTON -- In need of balancing their starting lineup, the Nationals agreed to terms with Daniel Murphy on a three-year deal on Thursday, pending a physical, a baseball source told MLB.com. ESPN was the first to report the deal, which has not been confirmed by the club.

The deal is worth a reported $37.5 million over the three years, according to FOX Sports. Murphy is scheduled to take the physical after the holidays.

By getting Murphy, the Nationals will surrender a first-round Draft pick because Murphy rejected the Mets' qualifying offer worth $15.8 million. New York will get a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.

Complete 2016 Draft order

The Nationals are dominated by right-handed hitters, so they needed a left-handed hitter to join Bryce Harper in the lineup. The left-handed-hitting Murphy was a solid hitter for the Mets the past seven years, sporting a .288 career average, and he could help balance Washington's lineup.

Hot Stove Tracker

Murphy was a big reason the Mets went far in the postseason in 2015. In the first two rounds, Murphy went 16-for-38 (.421) with seven home runs and 11 RBIs. He hit a home run in six consecutive games, a postseason record. Four of those homers came in the National League Championship Series against the Cubs, leading Murphy to earn Most Valuable Player honors for that series.

Rosenthal on Murphy

However, Murphy is considered a below-average defender. His defense at second base hurt the Mets in the World Series against the Royals. Although Murphy has spent time at first base, third base and left field, he's played mostly second and has amassed minus-42 Defensive Runs Saved at that position, the second-lowest total among big league second basemen since 2011.

With Muphy on board, look for the Nationals to get a defensive-minded player to replace Murphy in the late innings. Danny Espinosa would appear to be that guy, but the team looks at him to start the season at shortstop, according to sources.

The Nationals have been looking for a second baseman ever since they decided to switch Anthony Rendon from second to third base and traded third baseman Yunel Escobar to the Angels. The team tried to sign Ben Zobrist to play second base, but he signed with the Cubs. Washington then reportedly had a trade in place for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who used his 10-5 rights and rejected a deal to the Nationals. After the Phillips deal went nowhere, the Nats showed interest in Murphy and Howie Kendrick, who rejected the Dodgers' qualifying offer.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Wise fantasy owners will recognize Murphy's postseason power surge (seven homers in 58 at-bats) as an aberration, but there is reason to believe that he is on course to produce career-best numbers in 2016. In just 130 regular-season games in '15, the native Floridian belted a career-best 14 homers and hit .281 despite a personal-low .271 BABIP. If afforded a premium lineup spot with the Nats, he could bat around .290 and approach the 20-homer plateau to rank among the pack of second-tier mixed-league second basemen.

Nationals' Top 30 Prospects

Murphy's signing eliminates the immediate mixed-league value of prospect Trea Turner, who should open the season in the Minors. Espinosa could use his power stroke to have short-term value in deep-mixed formats, but he is likely keeping the position warm until Turner forces his way to the big leagues during the season.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.