Daniel Murphy has been out for the entire season so far with a sprained right knee, but he is getting closer to returning to Flushing as he is currently down in Port St. Lucie hitting in the batting cages, according to Andy Martino of the NY Daily News .

The problem is, the Mets don’t need Murphy the way they once did since the emergence of first baseman Ike Davis . So the question now becomes, what are the Mets going to do once Murphy returns?

The three options are put him on the bench and DFA Frank Catalanotto, bench him and DFA Gary Matthews Jr., or start him at second base. Let’s take a look at these options more in depth.

Let’s look at the stats of Matthews and Catalanotto to see which of the first two scenarios is the better one (they would probably DFA one even if Murphy’s role is a starter’s role):

Matthews’ Stats: 14 G, 30 AB, 6 R, 5 H, 2 2B, 5 BB, 14 K, 1 SB, .167 AVG, .286 OBP, .233 SLG, .519. OPS. OPS+ over last three years: 78

Catalanotto’s stats: 18 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, .167 AVG, .211 OBP, .222 SLG, .433 OPS. OPS+ over last three years: 92

Both players are the same age, 36, neither are doing well offensively, and neither are standouts defensively. Catalanotto has a slight edge in OPS+ over the last three years, but Matthews probably gets the edge because he can also fill in at center field on occasion. Catalanotto really provides nothing defensively that Murphy doesn’t already. Because of the center field issue, Catalanotto is probably the one who gets DFA’d.

This option is another close one. Murphy, who has no experience at second base in the majors, is certainly not going to be better there than Luis Castillo . It’s hard to tell which one is the better offensive player. Castillo struggles with consistency and Murphy really hasn’t been in the majors long enough to be able to accurately gauge what to expect.

In Murphy’s first year he put up a 129 OPS+ in 131 at-bats, but he showed last season that that’s not realistic with a 95 OPS+ in 508 at-bats. He’s still young though (25), so you have to think that he could slightly improve on last year’s numbers.

Castillo has been a solid player for the Mets this year, especially after getting past some early-season leg issues. His OPS is .764 during his last 49 at-bats. His OPS+ over the last three years, though, has been just 90.

What may end up being the Mets’ best option is to use Murphy in both roles, at second base part-time and off the bench as a pinch hitter. Since Murphy doesn’t have a lot of experience at second, they can slowly work him in as he gains experience. Meanwhile, he can spend half of his time coming off the bench, providing depth that way.

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