The San Francisco Giants unearthed a few diamonds in the rough during the 2019 season. Catcher Tom Murphy was the one that got away.
A wide net was cast by the San Francisco Giants in their search for a backup catcher last spring.
Cameron Maybin, Rene Rivera, Tom Murphy and Stephen Vogt were all signed to minor league deals, while Erik Kratz was acquired in a minor trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The team eventually decided on Kratz for the backup job to start the season, with Vogt accepting an assignment to Triple-A and waiting in the wings to eventually take over the job,
In the aftermath of that decision, Rivera was released, Rupp was traded to the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations, and Murphy was traded to the Seattle Mariners for rookie ball right-hander Jesus Ozoria.
While Kratz didn’t hold onto the job for long, Vogt eventually staked claim to it, hitting .263/.314/.490 with 24 doubles and 10 home runs in 280 plate appearances in a solid bounce-back season after missing all of the 2018 season recovering from shoulder surgery.
However, that performance paled in comparison to the season that Murphy went on to have in Seattle.
The 28-year-old was once viewed as the catcher of the future with the Colorado Rockies, and he ranked among the team’s top 10 prospects four years running from 2014-17, according to Baseball America.
His stock peaked prior to the 2016 season when he ranked as the No. 97 prospect in all of baseball, on the heels of posting an .804 OPS with 26 doubles and 20 home runs in 105 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
In the end, he was never able to establish himself at the MLB level, due in part to a variety of injuries, and the San Francisco Giants claimed him off waivers on March 25, 2019.
The Giants then designated him for assignment again in an effort to sneak him through waivers and off the 40-man roster so he could be stashed in Triple-A, but the Mariners placed a claim and he was ultimately traded.
He broke camp with a spot on the Seattle roster and split time with Omar Narvaez throughout the season, with the two forming one of the better catching tandems in baseball.
In 281 plate appearances over 75 games, Murphy hit .273/.324/.535 with 12 doubles, 18 home runs and 40 RBI, good for a 129 OPS+ that ranked second among all catchers with at least 250 plate appearances—trailing only Mitch Garver (156).
Always viewed as an offensive-minded catcher, Murphy’s defense proved equally surprising.
With Buster Posey signed for the next two years and Joey Bart waiting in the wings, Murphy would not have had a long-term place on the Giants roster.
However, the team certainly could have gotten more for him than a low-level pitcher had he enjoyed his breakout performance while filling the role that Vogt did instead this past season.
With team control through the 2023 season, Tom Murphy now looks like a long-term asset for the Seattle Mariners, and the one that got away for the San Francisco Giants.