Why adding veteran catcher Tom Murphy is a sneaky shrewd move by the SF Giants

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners
Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The SF Giants are still in the mix for star-free agents, including Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell, and Matt Champman. However, as they await their fate in negotiations, the club added an under-the-radar bat in catcher Tom Murphy. The eight-year MLB veteran will join incumbent starter Patrick Bailey to form a formidable backstop duo in the Bay Area.

Why adding veteran catcher Tom Murphy is a sneaky shrewd move by the SF Giants

To his credit, Bailey proved quite capable of handling the role of everytday catcher during his 2023 rookie campaign. His bat left something to be desired (.233 batting average and just seven home runs). But, the 24-year-old has plenty of time to develop in that area.

More important was Bailey's defensive production. The young catcher was one of the best defenders in baseball, ranking second (out of 63 players) at limiting would-be base stealers. He also recorded the fourth-fastest pop time, while ranking 1st in MLB as a pitch framer. These advanced metrics make a legitimate argument that Bailey was the best defensive catcher last season.

So, why add one of the top five catchers in the 2023-2024 free agency class? The answer to this question is simple: Murphy is a really good major-league hitter.

Had he reached the required number of at-bats, the former Mariner's .290 batting average would have edged out former All-Star and 2023 Silver Slugger William Contreras (.289) for the highest at the catcher position. This is nothing new for Murphy, who has posted a .270+ BA in four of his eight professional seasons.

While he lacks anything more than modest power (he hit eight homers across 145 ABs in a backup role last season), he has the on-base skills to be a serviceable fill-in at DH. He represents a major upgrade over Joey Bart, who hit just .207 in 2023 and holds a career .219 batting average.

Murphy is a below-average defender, pitch framer (45th of 63), and arm strength (55th of 63). However, the SF Giants offer him the perfect opportunity to showcase his potent bat without needing to fill a large role.

Adding Murphy takes some of the pressure off of Bailey, particularly as Bart struggles to develop into a role as an MLB backstop. It is likely at this point that Bart is traded before the start of the season. Bailey will take most of the reps as the starter, with Murphy filling in on his off days.

Each has clear strengths. Both will bring something of value to the table each time they are listed on the lineup card. At just $4 million a year (over the next two years), signing Murphy was a great depth move for the SF Giants for 2024 and beyond.