Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Catcher John Ryan Murphy


The position at the top of the Pittsburgh Pirates offseason to-do list was at catcher.  The team has brought in another depth option.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a relatively slow offseason.  This was to be expected with the managerial and front office changeover that played out at the beginning of the offseason.  Just last week, the team announced their finalized coaching staff for the 2020 season.  Some believed that Ben Cherington was more focused on filling out the teams’ staff before making actual roster moves.

Now the team has made an acquisition for the second day in a row and their third notable transaction overall.  Yesterday, it was announced that they agreed to terms with outfielder Guillermo Heredia.  This was their second big league roster move of the offseason.  The first came in December when they signed catcher Luke Maile to a deal, although Maile does have a minor league option meaning he could start the season in Triple-A.

Even with Maile, it was expected that the team would continue to look for catching help.  Cherington commented on how the whole organization needed help behind the dish, not just the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reported that the team agreed to a minor league contract with veteran catcher John Ryan Murphy.  Here is Biertempfel’s tweet:

Murphy is 28 years of age but has been up since 2013 when de debuted with the New York Yankees.  The Yankees traded him to the Minnesota Twins in 2016.  Since 2017 he was part of the Arizona Diamondbacks catching rotation until last year when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves.  The Braves released Murphy at the beginning of the offseason.

Although it is a minor league deal, Murphy represents a strong depth option.  In terms of offense, he does not bring a lot of upside being a career .219 hitters and owning a career OPS of .622.  Even with his poor numbers with that bat, Murphy has posted a positive WAR over the last two seasons.  This is because of his abilities behind the plate.  He is considered to be above average at pitch framing and posted three defensive runs saved in 2019.  Furthermore, he has thrown out close to 30 percent of runners in his career.

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John Ryan Murphy most likely will not make the Pittsburgh Pirates roster out of spring training.  Still, the team does not have any reasonable depth pieces at the Triple-A level, and if one of the Bucs’ actual catchers were to go down, Murphy would be a solid option to call up.  He brings strong defense behind the plate and should help the pitchers with his pitch framing.  If nothing else, it shows the team is putting an emphasis on finding catchers who can handle a pitching staff.