The D-backs announced that they’ve acquired minor league catcher John Ryan Murphy from the Twins in exchange for minor league left-hander Gabriel Moya. In a corresponding move, Yasmany Tomas has been transferred from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on Arizona’s 40-man roster.
Murphy’s tenure with the Twins will come to a disappointing end after roughly a season and a half. Acquired prior to the 2016 season in a straight-up swap for outfielder Aaron Hicks, Murphy floundered in his first season with the Twins in ’16 and has yet to see the Majors in 2017. Hicks, meanwhile, finally broke out and delivered on his former top prospect status as a member of the Yankees in 2017, though he’s been sidelined for about a month due to an oblique injury.
The 26-year-old Murphy showed plenty of promise in 2015, hitting .277/.327/.406 in his first extended look in the Majors as a member of the Yankees. With a long-term need behind the plate and a glut of outfield depth in his system, former Twins GM Terry Ryan moved the out-of-options Hicks to New York in exchange for Murphy with the hope that he could succeed Kurt Suzuki as the Twins’ starting catcher in the long run.
Murphy, though, logged just 90 plate appearances with the Twins in 2016 and hit .146/.193/.220. He posted a .609 OPS at the Triple-A level last year as well and hasn’t been much better in 2017, hitting just .222/.298/.330 with four home runs through 218 plate appearances. The Twins inked Jason Castro to a three-year pact this winter and have backup catcher/mop-up reliever extraordinaire Chris Gimenez controlled through 2018, while 26-year-old Mitch Garver’s strong minor league play has easily vaulted him over Murphy on the organizational depth chart. The inclusion of journeyman Anthony Recker in this week’s Jaime Garcia swap gave the Twins yet another experienced option at catcher and likely made Murphy all the more expendable in their eyes.
For all of his flaws at the plate, Murphy has halted 39 percent of stolen base attempts against him and has delivered superlative framing marks both this season and last in Triple-A Rochester. For a Diamondbacks organization that has placed a clear emphasis on catcher defense — highlighted by the signing of light-hitting Jeff Mathis to a two-year deal — the interest in Murphy is understandable. He’s probably behind Mathis, Chris Herrmann and Chris Iannetta on the depth chart for now, but Iannetta is a free agent at season’s end while Herrmann (also a former Twin) is a clear non-tender candidate, if not a DFA candidate.
In Moya, the Twins will pick up a left-handed arm that ranked as the 25th-best asset in a thin Diamondbacks farm system, per Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The 22-year-old Moya has served as the closer with the D-backs’ Double-A affiliate this season and posted a gaudy 0.82 ERA with 14.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 42.5 percent ground-ball rate. He’s saved 17 games at that level, though Callis and Mayo suggest that he doesn’t have the stuff to close at the game’s top level. They do note that unlike many relievers, Moya has four useful pitches, highlighted by a changeup and also featuring an average fastball and slider.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.