The Pirates have signed catcher John Ryan Murphy to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, reports Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic (via Twitter). He’s represented by ISE Baseball.
Murphy, 28, spent the bulk of the 2019 season with the D-backs, although he finished out the year with a brief stint in the Braves organization. He’s a light-hitting backstop who’s generally considered to be among the game’s premier options in terms of pitch framing. Murphy was once considered a solid catching prospect with the Yankees and Twins, but to this point in his career he’s managed only a .219/.265/.357 batting line through 674 plate appearances. He hit well, particularly relative to other catchers, up through the Double-A level but owns a tepid .244/.306/.380 line through parts of five Triple-A seasons.
Pittsburgh’s catching mix is fairly open at the moment. Jacob Stallings is the favorite to handle starting duties after posting a respectable batting line and playing strong defense in 2019. Luke Maile joined the organization as a free agent and was given a 40-man roster spot, placing him in line to serve as the backup to Stallings. Murphy, though, will provide some competition for Maile (a high-end framer himself) and can otherwise serve as an experienced depth option in the upper minors if he’s unable to break camp with the team.