Twins confident Murphy will add offense at catcher

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It doesn't take much offense to become a competent two-way catcher in the major leagues these days. John Ryan Murphy, acquired from the New York Yankees last month for Aaron Hicks, could give the Twins that rare asset. "I beli...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It doesn’t take much offense to become a competent two-way catcher in the major leagues these days.

John Ryan Murphy, acquired from the New York Yankees last month for Aaron Hicks, could give the Twins that rare asset.

“I believe the young man’s going to hit. I do,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Murphy this week at the winter meetings. “I don’t necessarily think he’s a 25- to 30-home run guy, but I think he’s going to hit, and I think he’s going to be productive.”

Murphy, 25, has hit .267 with a .311 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage in parts of three big-league seasons (284 plate appearances). His most sustained opportunity came last season, when he slugged .406 and had three homers, including a three-run shot off Twins closer Glen Perkins in the ninth inning of a July 25 Yankees victory at Target Field.

“We saw the power there,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said.


What’s the biggest thing Murphy needs to clean up at the plate to make the leap to everyday option?

“I think it’s just making adjustments as clubs make adjustments to you and getting used to playing every day again,” said Girardi, a former all-star catcher who spent 15 years in the majors. “I mean, that’s the thing for a catcher, the fatigue you experience as you go down the stretch and learning how to continue to be productive when you have that fatigue.”

To this point, Murphy has struggled against breaking pitches, but some of that could be related to intermittent playing time, the Twins believe.

Big-league catchers hit a cumulative .240 last season with a .303 OBP and a .379 slugging percentage. They struck out nearly three times as often (20.8 percent) as they walked (7.7 percent).

So the bar is set fairly low for Murphy, especially in light of defensive ability.

Girardi gave Murphy high marks for his glove work after making the conversion from third base, where he played at The Pendleton School in Bradenton, Fla. The Yankees drafted him in the second round in 2009, six spots after the Twins took University of Florida pitcher Billy Bullock.

“I think he’s improved dramatically as a catcher from the time he was drafted,” Girardi said. “He’s very smart. He works very hard. He’s got an idea what he wants to do. I think it’s a good trade for both teams, and I think he’ll be a good big-league catcher.”

Girardi is excited about the addition of Hicks, the former Twins’ first-rounder (2008) who should improve an aging team’s athleticism.


“We added Hicks, who I think is a great athlete,” Girardi said. “He will help.”

Ryan and Yankees counterpart Brian Cashman first discussed the one-for-one swap a couple of weeks before finalizing it at the GM meetings.

“That’s a trade where people were (saying), ‘Who won that trade?’ ” Ryan said. “Well, we’re going to have to play it out. We needed catching; they needed an outfielder. We didn’t necessarily want to give up Aaron Hicks, but we had to in order to get Murphy. And they said the same thing, I think. It just made so much sense I think it was a head-scratcher.”

Although he hits from the same side as Kurt Suzuki, Murphy is expected to complement the veteran catcher and 2014 all-star. Twins manager Paul Molitor will be able to play matchups and keep Suzuki, who has one year plus a vesting option left on his contract, from wearing down as he did last season.

Long-term, the Twins believe in Murphy’s bat after shedding three other backup catching options - Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer - this offseason.

“We made that trade because we think he’s going to hit,” Ryan said. “I hate to put too many predictions out there prior to hardly seeing the man, but our evaluations are such that the guy has got some offense. He’s got some defense, he’s athletic. so that’s enough where myself and Mike Radcliff and Rob (Antony) said, ‘This guy might help us.’ ”

Defensively, Murphy already is impressive.

“I’m as much concerned (about) handling the pitching stuff, block and shift, frame, release, accuracy,” Ryan said. “It’s tough to find a catcher that can do all of it.”

What To Read Next
The Toros' Dakota Lenz scores 2 goals in Mason City's 8-1 win over Willmar
The league would launch in summer 2024 and is polling interest in possible host cities.
The Tuesday, Jan. 31, game between Sioux Falls Lincoln and Watertown was forced to move after junior JT Rock broke the rim with a powerful two-handed dunk. Rock is committed to play at Iowa State.
Hull was a five-time 50-goal scorer, led the NHL in goalscoring seven times, twice won the Hart Trophy and was voted a First-Team All-Star on the left wing 10 times.