The Mariners’ trade for Tom Murphy a little over a year ago didn’t turn heads. Murphy had once been a notable prospect in the Rockies’ organization, but the shine had seemingly worn off. He saw sporadic action for Colorado between 2015-18, but his .219/.271/.439 line in 210 cumulative plate appearances was underwhelming. Even more disheartening, the Rockies themselves seemingly soured on him. Over those four seasons, the club gave more playing time to all of Tony Wolters, Nick Hundley, Chris Iannetta and Dustin Garneau, en route to largely underwhelming results. Even amidst that suboptimal situation, Murphy didn’t earn himself a long look.
The out-of-options Murphy bounced from the Rockies to the Giants on waivers last spring. After San Francisco decided he wasn’t in line to make the active roster, they shipped him to Seattle for a minimal return (minor-league pitcher Jesus Ozoria). That might have been a coup.
Murphy shined in 2019, his most extensive action to date. He and Omar Narváez quietly combined for a 121 wRC+, the best offensive production by a catching tandem in MLB. Murphy was a big part of that, having hit .273/.324/.535 (126 wRC+) with 18 home runs in 281 plate appearances. Unlike the bat-first Narváez, Murphy also rated well defensively. He drew plaudits from Baseball Prospectus for his blocking and pitch framing, while his 39% caught stealing rate was well above-average. All told, he rated as a top 25 defender at the position by both Defensive Runs Saved and BP’s Fielding Runs Above Average.
Pairing huge power production with above-average defense, Murphy was one of the game’s most valuable catchers last season. His 3.2 fWAR ranked fifth at the position, trailing J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, Mitch Garver and Christian Vázquez. Of that group, only fellow breakout slugger Garver logged a partial season’s worth of playing time as Murphy did.
It’s unlikely Murphy will maintain that level of production moving forward, as there are some red flags in his offensive profile. His .340 BABIP masked a 31% strikeout rate. That’ll almost certainly regress moving forward, particularly given Murphy’s fly-ball heavy approach and below-average speed. He’s also never been one to draw many walks, and that continued even amidst his power barrage. But even if Murphy ends up a low-OBP hitter, there’s plenty to like about the profile.
The right-handed hitter drew plaudits for his raw power as a prospect. While the baseball composition no doubt played some role in his home run frenzy, he hits the ball hard and frequently gets it in the air. He’s a strong bet to hit for much more power than is typical of the position. And Murphy’s 71.1% contact rate, while below-average, isn’t catastrophic. Skeptical Mariners’ fans could have visions of Mike Zunino. Zunino, though, never connected on more than 67.4% of his swings in a season. There are some similarities in the players’ general profiles, but Murphy already makes more contact than Seattle’s former catcher ever has.
The 29-year-old looks like a potential core piece of the Mariners’ rebuild. Narváez has been traded away, so Murphy has his clearest path to playing time yet (although Austin Nola was expected to be a highly-utilized #2 before the shutdown). Controlled through 2023, he’s squarely within the club’s anticipated contention window.
credit where it’s due, but i did not see this coming at the time. sometimes Dipoto gets a lucky hit on something.
Make enough trades and things like that happen.
He hit on a number of things. He’s had his misses, all GM’s do, but he’s done especially well since committing to the rebuild.
I just want to know why he farts every time he steps in the batters box. Squats and let’s it rip.
Lol it is a weird pre bat ritual sure it is a reminder for his legs or something but looks funny.
We also don’t need him to be exceptional just help the young pitchers and help Cal when he gets called up in a couple years.
Too much information!
Thank you Johnny Superscout
You still mad I told them you couldn’t hit? Sorry
What sold me on Murphy was his walk-to-the-plate song… Deftones -My Own Summer (Shove It). Oh yeah…
Love it, John Jaso used to walk up to “When the Levee Breaks” by Zeppelin when was an M
Thought this was going to be another Austin Adams hype piece lol
He has been a nice surprise.
Another Colorado Rockies player busting out after they left the organization, meanwhile, who is catching for the Rockies? Wolters and one of their hot offseason pick ups Drew Butera. Great work Bridich!
Bridich is not a very good GM at all for a lot of reasons
What puzzles me the most is why he has been so reluctant to give opportunities to the younger players who have dominated the upper-minors. Chased after veterans instead and virtually none of them helped.
Butera might literally be the worst non-pitcher hitter in baseball.
Yeah, he’s absolutely dreadful and his miserable offensive statistics are on par with Jeff Mathis, who has no business of being on a Major League roster and would’ve been out of the game years ago if he wasn’t so good defensively.
He built a 94 win team in 2020 though
No doubt about it.
It was the owner who promised that…..
This piece is especially interesting for me as I was literally just arguing the same point with an arrogant, ill-informed Seattle-area blogger who suggested Murphy was among the most likely players with Seattle to be traded this offseason.
Murphy has to prove that he can hit RHPs at least somewhat better, but the bar isn’t that high. The fact that he’s controllable through 2023 means he fits the timeline, even if Seattle’s target date gets pushed back a bit.
Whether or not he’s better served in a more regular role or as a backup remains to be seen, but either way he offers value that Seattle needs with a handful of young starters coming into the fold.
It makes zero sense to move a player like that. The goal for Seattle is to break out of the rebuild as soon as possible. Trading useful players would be taking steps backwards.
This guy could be quite valuable with another good catcher to split time with. Him and Narvaez were scary last year for the M’s (one of the only “scary” aspects of that club). I think Murphy and a backup catcher wouldn’t be that effective just based on him getting the majority of the time. If he goes to the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, or even Angels, he would be more effective because he could split time with either a defensive catcher or a catcher of his ability. If that makes any sense.
I was hopeful Seattle would sign Grandal last offseason and pair him with Murphy.
But make no mistake about it, Seattle is more interested in his defense than his bat. Prior to this pandemic, they likely envisioned a platoon with Raleigh in 2021 or 2022. With the unlikeliness of a minor-league season, his projected debut moves back.
Seattle may end up chasing Realmuto, but otherwise it’s easy to see them sticking with Murphy in a regular role and reassessing following the 2021 season.
I can see it now, Seattle will be the last team to reach the WS 2035. A statue of their GM Jay Buhner will soon be outside Starbucks Field
It must be easy for you to make jokes with so much comedy coming from Moreno and his puppet show of a front office.
Comedy is you wearing your Mariner colored glasses getting excited about a 29 rookie and having Dipoto in your front office bub.
Bitter bitter halo fans. Hate all you want but Dipoto has done s great job while he has been here. You guys on the other hand will be dumpster diving for how many years?
You will be a continual last place team wasting the best player in BB. Yes we wasted some good players but we have a GM doing a good job and that has to piss you off horribly.
I also don’t want to hear about never doing this or that. I am too old to look back need to look forward to see what we can do. I am excited going forward and this covid thing came at a horrible time. Hopefully only sets is back a year.
Still bitter about Ohtani choosing The Angels over Mariners?? Talk about Bitter.
“Oh yeah, well what about this!” Good comeback.
Says the fan of a team with the greatest player in baseball and a top-6 payroll that has managed to get into the postseason just once over the last 10 seasons….and that one appearance was with Jerry Dipoto.
Keep ’em comin’!!
Bitter because he mentioned Ohtani how many times? What have the Angels accomplished since then?
Rather than taking childish jabs at Mariner fans, how about simply talking baseball? You’re free to do as you please, but talking trash isn’t going to get you far.
How many games has he pitched for you? How many playoff appearances has he helped you get? I am never bitter when a player chooses another team just move on.
There was the one when Arod left to go to Texas and said it wasn’t the money but the chance to win. I would have respected him more if he was honest. That one pissed me off but for a while different reason.
Time for you to look at what Dipoto has done here and admit he has done a good job. Either that or just be bitter and make dumb comments. I hope for the second one you because you are great entertainment. Need something until baseball returns.
How sweet was that Logan Gilbert strikeout of Ohtani and Jo Adell during this years Cactus League game in early March?
But Murphy is a good defensive catcher. Read the article much?
A 29 y o catcher that had a break out part time year. I will wait until he proves it was not a one year fluke. Right now he looks like a platoon player. smashes lefties struggles again righties.
He hasn’t had consistent PA’s against RHPs, but yeah, that’s one of the bigger questions.
But even in a platoon role like we saw last season, he was incredibly valuable.
He only received around 200 plate appearances in his 4 years in Colorado. So it’s not much of a shock that he broke out in a productive way when he recieved playing time…talent was always there he just needed to take his lumps
But did Murphy get rave reviews?
No. He got dropkicked.
I hope people get this!
Luckily it’s not quite do or die for Mr. Murphy, Stevil.
I get it
Not as good as Peter O’Brien, but close.
“It’s unlikely Murphy will maintain that level of production moving forward, as there are some red flags in his offensive profile. His .340 BABIP masked a 31% strikeout rate. That’ll almost certainly regress moving forward, particularly given Murphy’s fly-ball heavy approach and below-average speed. He’s also never been one to draw many walks, and that continued even amidst his power barrage.”
That basically summed up what I wanted to say. There are countless players each year that have similar seasons that disappear soon after. However, nit many of them are good defensive catchers.
Like some commentors know how to spell?
Tom the Baller
He literally made one small typo, man. That comment was unnecessary.
And he (Jorge) spelled “commenters” wrong, which wasn’t a typo.
Always good to see rudeness backfire.
I’m not sure if he’s a core piece for Seattle. I would trade him to a contender for prospects. The time Seattle is good again he’s going to be too old.
The Ms are not going to trade a Catcher who has 4 yrs of control- a salary of under $600K this year followed by 3 stages of arbitration unless they are absolutely blown away. I’d keep Murphy not only because he’s cheap controllable and valuable at a position where there’s very few really good players but I’d keep him so he could mentor and eventually share the position with our best C prospect- Cal Raleigh.
I’m curious though, what package do you think it would it take to “blow away” dipoto in a trade for Murph?
Oh look. Another Rockie that left Denver and started hitting BETTER. Where are the “Coors-creation” fans when this happens (which is all the time)?
dynamite drop in monty
The man was keeping him down!
A position player has his stats go up after he left the Rockies? What????
This is another player who strikes out around 5 times as many walks. But if this player is good defensively he is a positive to the Mariners who can bat him late in the order and get good production from a catcher.
It’s about being a catcher!
Who leaves Colorado and Then hits better? You’re doing it wrong, Tom