NEW YORK -- A baseball fan like so many others, Daniel Murphy kept tabs on the goings-on at last week's Winter Meetings. At one point, his representatives checked in with the Mets to see how much substance was behind the trade rumors surrounding their client.
"It didn't seem like there was a whole, whole lot going on," Murphy said.
Like most offseasons truths, however, that can change in a hurry. Murphy knows there is a chance he will be elsewhere once spring camps open in mid-February, even if he spends his days rooting for the alternative.
"I want to be here," Murphy said Tuesday, after playing Santa at the Mets' annual holiday party for local schoolchildren. "I think this organization is heading in the right direction, and I really want to be a part of it."
In an active offseason for the Mets, Murphy's future is not the organization's top priority. As far as trades go, the team is far more likely to deal Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, a pair of first basemen jockeying for the same starting role. General manager Sandy Alderson plans to look to free agency to fill his team's most pressing remaining needs: a fifth starter and veteran reliever.
But Murphy is coming off two reliable seasons as the Mets' starting second baseman, putting his trade value at an all-time high. He set career highs with 13 home runs and 23 stolen bases last season, despite trending downward in batting average and on-base percentage. At age 28, he remains smack in the middle of his physical prime.
Given all that, the Mets consider Murphy a valuable commodity. But they also know his salary (likely more than $5 million through arbitration) may soon grow large enough to outweigh his production, making him a prime sell-high candidate. In an ideal world, the Mets will upgrade at shortstop this winter, and they don't believe they can do so through free agency. Dealing Murphy could either land them a shortstop, or at least the trade chips necessary to do so.
It would also make for an unhappy second baseman.
"I want to be in New York," Murphy said. "We've struggled the last couple of years, and I also feel like, hopefully, my best baseball is ahead of me. So when you feel like you've been a little part of the problem, you want to be a part of the solution."
A fan favorite throughout parts of five seasons in New York, Murphy is not without his critics. Alderson himself all but called Murphy's .319 on-base percentage in 2013 unacceptable, in response to a question regarding his candidacy for the leadoff spot.
The GM went on to add: "I think he knows that, so maybe that will change."
Defensively, Murphy has developed from an unnatural second-base convert to something resembling league average, helping his offensive stats stand taller.
"He's done a very nice job at second base," Alderson said. "We've asked him to do a lot, and he's responded, defensively. I think we've accepted whatever limitations exist. But he continues to work at it, and hopefully he'll continue to get better."
The question is whether that progress will come as a member of the Mets. And while the answer may not come imminently, the Mets should decide on Murphy's future at some point this winter.
"I think I'll be here," Murphy said, "But that's one of those things that's outside of my control."