Red Sox: Decision time for David Murphy

Mar 20, 2016; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Murphy (18) connects for a base hit during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2016; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Murphy (18) connects for a base hit during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

David Murphy will need to decide if he is moving on from the Boston Red Sox in search of other opportunities if he hasn’t been assured a roster spot.

It’s time for David Murphy to make a decision regarding his future with the Boston Red Sox.

The 34-year old can opt-out of his contract on Sunday, which he is almost certain to do if he isn’t assured of a spot on the Opening Day roster by then. Murphy will be in the lineup serving as the designated hitter for Saturday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, giving the Red Sox one last look at him before he makes his decision.

Earlier this week, Murphy told WEEI’s John Tomase that he will not accept a minor league assignment and he will consider retirement if he falls short of cracking the 25-man roster. He’ll certainly take another look around the league to see if there are any openings that weren’t available prior to when he signed with the Red Sox at the end of February, but if nothing has changed in terms of being offered a spot on a big league roster then it may be time for him to walk away.

"“Retirement is definitely a possibility there,” Murphy told WEEI. “I don’t know. The way that everything has gone this offseason, something like that has crept up kind of quickly. It would definitely be part of my thought process, but I really don’t know. I’d have to take a little bit of time to think about it, or to go home and stay in shape and wait for a phone call. There are so many variables, so many possibilities, that I didn’t think that I would have to think about this year. But it is what it is.”"

Murphy is coming off of a season where he hit .283 with 10 home runs and a .739 OPS in time split between the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angeles. They aren’t eye-popping numbers by any means, but it was a solid season. Apparently not solid enough thought to convince either of those teams to bring him back, forcing him to settle for a minor league deal with the Red Sox that would allow him to at least compete for a major league job.

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With the deadline for his chance to opt-out looming, it’s starting to look like that chance won’t come in Boston. The starting outfield alignment is presumably set, with Chris Young serving as the fourth outfielder off the bench. Brock Holt is also capable of filling in at all three outfield spots and the team has toyed with the idea of giving Travis Shaw some time in the outfield in an effort to get him more at-bats (unless of course he wins the third base job from Pablo Sandoval). With that much depth on the roster already, its going to be hard to squeeze in Murphy.

His chances to make the team went up a bit when Brennan Boesch went down with a fractured wrist to eliminate some of the competition, but there are still obstacles standing in Murphy’s path to the big leagues.

His best chance would seem to be if the Red Sox decide to start Rusney Castillo in Pawtucket. It seems unlikely given how much the team has invested in the 28-year old from Cuba, but manager John Farrell has made it clear that the size of a player’s contract won’t be the primary factor that determines playing time. You need to perform in order to earn a role on this team, and so far this spring Murphy has outproduced Castillo by a significant margin. Murphy is hitting .310 with a .714 OPS, while Castillo has struggled to the tune of a .233 average and .554 OPS.

If Murphy were to steal Castillo’s spot on the roster he would likely serve as the left-handed half of a platoon with Young. For his career, Murphy owns a .795 OPS against right-handed pitching, while Young has a .837 OPS against lefties. Mash their production together and you get a hitter that is a borderline All-Star when deployed properly.

Murphy may be sliding on the down slope of his career, but he can still help a team in a part-time role. He deserves a shot to play somewhere, even if it doesn’t end up being here. Yet if this really is the end for him, it’s almost fitting that his career would end in Boston, the city where it all began for him after the Red Sox selected him in the first round of the 2003 draft.

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Don’t count out Murphy yet. While the Red Sox haven’t let on whether they intend to break camp with him on the roster, his strong spring will force them to give it careful consideration. If the team is interested in keeping him around then they better figure it out quickly because Murphy only has one day left to make his decision.