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Dale Murphy: Still a Brave but Maybe a Met, or Padre

March 4, 1989

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Dale Murphy is still an Atlanta Brave. But the question is for how long.

The two-time National League Most Valuable Player has been on the trading block all winter and the San Diego Padres and New York Mets are definitely interested.

The Padres are dangling highly-regarded rookie catcher Sandy Alomar and other prospects, including Shane Mack and Shawn Abner.

The Braves, however, acquired veteran catcher Jody Davis from the Chicago Cubs late last season, and catching is not an immediate need. General Manager Bobby Cox has also said he is opposed to making a three-team deal - acquiring Alomar and then dealing him or Davis to another club to get what he needs.

Atlanta is seeking a centerfielder who can lead off, another regular everyday player, and possibly a pitcher.

The Mets can meet that need.

New York has offered Len Dykstra, who fits the center fielder-leadoff role, third baseman Howard Johnson and pitcher Rick Aguilera.

Cox likes Dykstra and Johnson, but would rather have New York’s highly regarded left-hander Dave West. The Mets, however, do not want to part with West.

And what does Murphy, who hit only .226 last year with 24 home runs and 77 runs batted in, think about all the talk?

″It’s certainly been a different winter, that’s for sure,″ Murphy said earlier in the week.

″It’s the first time there’s really been some serious (trade) talks concerning me,″ he said.

Murphy, who will be 33 next week, has the right to veto any trade since he is in his 12th season with the Braves.

As for his willingness to go to either San Diego or New York, Murphy was non-commital.

″I have considered the possibilities, but haven’t accepted or rejected either. At this point I really haven’t made a decision. It hasn’t come to the point where Bobby (Cox) has come to me with something,″ said Murphy, the father of five boys and known as a homebody and family man.

It had been reported that Murphy had given Cox a March 15 deadline to either make a trade or end the speculation.

″No. I haven’t given them any deadlines. We talked about it, but nothing was decided,″ he said, adding that an earlier date ″might be best.″

″There’s just so much to consider. Right now I’ve got to get ready for the season, get to learn center field again,″ said Murphy.

Manager Russ Nixon, who said the overall outfield play last year ″was horrible,″ has returned Murphy to center field this season after two years in right.

″I don’t want to think about that,″ said Nixon, replying to a question of making out a lineup without Murphy. ″It’s hard for me to imagine, too.″

″I feel like he’s going to be here. I’ve never felt any other way about it. He’s the backbone of our club,″ he said.

As for the proposed Mets’ offer for Murphy, Nixon said, ″We’d have to have more. I don’t think it’s enough.″

If West was included instead of Aguilera, Nixon said the Braves ″might be able to do that.″

Cox essentially said the same thing.

″If we get the players to make the trade go, we’ll consider it,″ he said.

Cox said the Braves’ have a scout in Port St. Lucie evaluating the Mets’ players, but said he has not spoken to New York’s Joe McIlvaine, vice president of baseball operations in a week.

″It’s up to Joe. I’m not going to keep pounding and pounding on them,″ said Cox. ″I think they want to look at their club a bit more before they do anything.″

Did he have any fear of backlash from Atlanta fans, if he did indeed trade Murphy, one of the most popular players in the game?

″He’s one of the biggest names in baseball, not just in Atlanta. Sure (there would be some upset fans),″ said Cox. ″But you have to look at the big picture.

″I know what’s out there as far as the fans are concerned, but you’ve got to be able to pull the trigger. I will take them into consideration - they do pay the freight - but a guy can’t play forever,″ he said.

″The ideal situation would be to get a guy to go with Murphy, which we’re trying to do. We’re talking to other clubs,″ he said. ″But nothing’s happened so far.″

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