- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Washington Nationals were in search of a left-handed hitter and infield help. They reportedly signed both in one shot on Thursday.

According to former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, who now works for ESPN, Washington signed second baseman Daniel Murphy to a three-year contract.

The Nationals had whiffed on several offseason targets, including utility player Ben Zobrist, outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Brandon Phillips. Zobrist and Heyward decided to sign elsewhere as free agents, despite what Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo touted as “fair-market offers” to each. The Nationals attempted to trade for Phillips, who would have had to waive a no-trade clause, and that did not work.

Murphy went on a historical offensive run in the playoffs for the rival New York Mets, setting postseason records with seven home runs by a second baseman in a single postseason and six consecutive games with a home run. He was named the National League Championship Series MVP before struggling in the World Series, in which he hit just .150.

Murphy was an all-star in 2014 when he hit .289 with nine home runs and 57 RBI, and he hit a career-high 14 home runs this past season. He is a career .288 hitter who adds a needed left-handed bat to the Nationals‘ lineup, joining Bryce Harper as the only regular who strictly hits from that side of the plate.

He also comes with drawbacks. Murphy, 30, has earned a reputation for making mistakes in the field and on the basepaths. Murphy has an ultimate zone rating of -20.2 over the parts of five seasons when he has played second base. He has also been used much less often in the outfield, third base and first base.

Murphy rejected an earlier qualifying offer from the Mets, which means the Nationals signing him after he passes a physical will cost Washington a first-round draft pick.

The Nationals knew the middle of their infield would have a different look next season. Shorstop Ian Desmond is a free agent. Two in-house options to play shortstop and second base are Danny Espinosa and rookie Trea Turner, and each would prefer to play shortstop.

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