Just a few days shy of his 28th birthday, Tom Murphy is headed to Seattle.
Sources: Mariners acquire catcher Tom Murphy in trade from Giants— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 29, 2019
The Mariners have been rocking two catchers on their 40-man all spring, but like most teams they were always expected to add a third at minimum. For a while it seemed like that would be veteran José Lobatón, but for a team rebuilding and attempting to add younger talent, it’d seem a waste of a 40-man spot. Instead, we have today’s move, which cost Seattle 20-year-old RHP Jesus Ozoria. Ozoria was in his second stint in the DSL, which went far better than his first. He posted a 10.76 K/9 in 49.1 innings in 2018 and seemed ticketed for Everett, but his numbers came against competition that was on average nearly two years his junior.
Tom Murphy is a former Rockies 3rd-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Buffalo whose profile fits that of the current era of catchers well - good athleticism, excellent raw power, suspect contact skills, strong arm, and what appear to be at least average framing skills. Murphy has hit minor league pitching at every level, which helped him move quickly for a catcher and make his MLB debut in 2015, when Baseball America ranked him their 95th overall prospect. Since then, he’s appeared in part of each season for Colorado, though he’s accrued 210 PAs without once eclipsing 100 in any single season. When he’s played, he’s flashed the power expected, but also a woeful 39.0% K-rate thus far in the bigs that has led to a 69 wRC+ despite a .219 ISO.
Murphy has struggled with injuries both structural and flukey. In 2014 his season was ended by a rotator cuff strain, however he returned strong from that to push his way to the bigs. Primed for taking the reins as the Rockies’ Opening Day catcher in 2017, he popped up to make a throw to second base and ended up fracturing his forearm as it collided with Anthony Rizzo’s bat on the throw. He missed a couple months and looked severely diminished at the plate all season. Last year Murphy’s numbers in AAA returned to form, but he still struggled with contact for Colorado even as his framing appeared to step forward. At the end of Spring Training, out of minor league options,
Murphy had been waived by the Rockies and claimed by the Giants, but San Francisco had waived him as well. He’s has had a somewhat Vogelbachian experience with the Rox over the past several years, clearly demonstrating the talent to mash in the PCL but not receiving the chance to succeed or fail/learn in the bigs.
He’ll now serve as the M’s backup catcher, and likely get a majority of starts against LHPs to pair with the LHH Omar Narváez. David Freitas is the odd man out, and the 30-year-old backstop will return to Tacoma for the moment. The 40-man roster is now full, although more spots can easily be created by sending Kyle Seager and/or Sam Tuivailala to the 60-day IL.