Colorado Rockies: The Daniel Murphy experiment ends with a thud

When the Colorado Rockies lineup was unveiled for the final game of the season on Sunday morning, Daniel Murphy was in his usual position this month: On the bench.

With the Colorado Rockies eliminated from postseason play, Daniel Murphy made his final start of the season on Saturday at first base. He went 1-for-4 in Saturday’s Rockies win, giving him just 25 at-bats during the entire month of September. That was a month where he batted just 2-for-25 (.080).

Heading into Sunday’s action, Murphy accumulated -1.3 bWAR this season with a .236/.275/.333 slash line. That’s in the final year of a two-year, $24 million deal that has been utterly disappointing as, at the plate, Murphy had an injury-plagued 2019 campaign (certainly not his fault, but set the stage for a .232 average at the start of June), a horrid 2020 season, and could never become the answer at first base that Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich envisioned when he signed him.

Combine his two years in Colorado and Murphy logged a combined -1.0 bWAR. The biggest offseason signing prior to the 2019 campaign, Murphy’s struggles mirror the struggles for the Rockies as a franchise overall, coming off back-to-back losing seasons after consecutive postseason berths.

There was no “plug and play” at first base for Murphy, who told Rockies media he was most comfortable at the position shortly after arriving at his first spring training with the Rockies in 2019. This season, Murphy posted a -3 DRS at the position.

Unable to produce at the plate and a defensive liability in the field, Murphy found himself on the bench as Colorado’s 2020 season collapsed. Even under the watch of a veteran-fond manager like Bud Black, Murphy was simply not good enough to crack the lineup. Meanwhile, Josh Fuentes established himself at first base, outperforming Murphy at the plate and in the field.

Murphy will end his career in Colorado with a batting average well below his career mark of .296 (posting a cumulative .269 number in 561 at-bats in his two Rockies seasons heading into Sunday).

There is a $12 million mutual option on the table for the 2021 season, but there’s no scenario where the Rockies will spend that money to bring Murphy back. That will result in a $6 million buyout due to Murphy that will officially end his tenure in Denver.

There are many questions for the Rockies heading into next season. Daniel Murphy’s status, however, will not be one of them. Sunday’s game will close the door on another dud of a free agent signing while opening the discussion once again on what the Rockies will do at a revolving first base position still sitting in the shadows of Todd Helton‘s legacy.