The Nationals entered this offseason looking for a left-handed bat and an upgrade at second base, with a preference for defensive versatility if they could swing it. They pursued Ben Zobrist and other trade options, but ultimately they found what they were looking for, and they didn't have to look far.
Daniel Murphy comes to Washington having played the entirety of his MLB career just up I-95 in New York City and just across the NL East division as a member of the Mets. Now he's a National, and both the player himself and the team like how he fits into their lineup and infield as their biggest offseason addition so far.
"I've seen plenty of Daniel Murphy in my career as a general manager, believe me," GM Mike Rizzo said. "He's a player that plays the game the right way. We love his attitude, his grit and when the bright lights of not only New York City, but the major playoffs come, he shines the brightest."
Murphy was asked several times about why he chose the Nationals. Each time he pointed to what was already in place: the pitching staff, the lineup and the coaching staff. They are ready to contend right now and that was important to him.
"I think with what Mr. Rizzo and Mr. [Ted] Lerner have already done, they've laid the foundation of a really, really good and competitive team here. I've got to experience that competitiveness being in New York. It's always a tough place to come in here and play. The rotation itself is deep and is talented. Then when you start talking about position players, you've got the best player in the National League and possibly on Earth hitting third for you every night. That's nice. Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor, it's a good group and hopefully I can just add to the foundation already laid here," he said.
There is plenty of familiarity in Washington for Murphy. He played against the Nats often over the years and is close with Matt den Dekker, who left New York for the Nats last season.
"I've been able to speak with Matt den Dekker because he was with the Metropolitans when I was there. We were both there. He spoke very highly of the clubhouse, the unity that this group has. Then, from the opposite side, looking from the other dugout, it didn't need to go much further than seeing [Max] Scherzer, [Stephen] Strasburg, Gio [Gonzalez]. That's kind of the first thing that you thought about when you were coming to town. To be on this side of it is really exciting, not facing those three guys. Then the depth with Joe Ross and Tanner Roark, as well. It will be much more pleasant to be on this side of it rather than the other side of it," Murphy explained.
Murphy had a good vantage point of the 2015 Nationals and their struggles, as the Mets swept the Nats both at the trade deadline and in September to take control of the NL East. As far as what they were missing and what they need to bounce back in 2016, he thinks it comes down to health and all the injuries they suffered to their lineup and rotation.
Injuries also play into why Murphy was brought in. He's durable, having played an average of 142 games in each of the last six seasons, and he plays multiple positions. If Ryan Zimmerman goes down with an injury, for instance, Murphy can step in at first.
"I hope in spring training I can be able to get work at each spot," Murphy said of the Nats infield. "I'll be diligent to take groundballs at third, first and second. I think the biggest thing is that it will give Dusty [Baker] some flexibility, more than anything. The one I'm most comfortable with will be wherever they plug me in that day. That's the one. That's my favorite position."