TODAY: The Giants officially announced the signing.
DECEMBER 18: The Giants are in agreement with free agent catcher Tom Murphy on a two-year deal with a 2026 club option, according to multiple reports. The Ballengee Group client is reportedly guaranteed $8.25MM, including a $250K buyout on the option. The deal can max out at $12MM.
Murphy heads to the Bay Area after five seasons in the Pacific Northwest. The right-handed hitter played a semi-regular role during his time with the Mariners. On a rate basis, Murphy has been one of the most productive power bats at the catcher position.
In 807 plate appearances with Seattle, Murphy blasted 38 home runs. He hit .250/.324/.460 overall, well above-average offense in one of the sport’s more pitcher-friendly home parks. That’s excellent production for a #2 catcher. However, that Murphy has only stepped to the plate 807 times over the last five years also points to a concerning injury history.
Going back to the start of 2020, the Buffalo product has missed time with a fractured left foot, a left shoulder dislocation and a sprained left thumb. The foot injury cost him the entire shortened season, while the shoulder limited him to 14 games in 2022. Last season’s thumb issue, suffered in mid-August, ended his year.
Despite the injury history, it’s easy to see the appeal of bringing Murphy aboard on a fairly low-cost contract. He’ll add a legitimate power presence as the backup behind 24-year-old Patrick Bailey. He’ll strike out a fair amount as well, but there aren’t many depth catchers who have the same kind of slugging upside that Murphy possesses.
The 32-year-old (33 in April) isn’t as highly-regarded on the other side of the ball. Statcast graded him below average from both framing and blocking perspectives. He only threw out one of 28 attempted basestealers in 2023. While that’s not entirely on the catcher — a pitcher’s ability to hold runners is also a factor — Statcast ranked Murphy 69th out of 74 catchers (minimum 10 throws) in average pop time to second base.
Signing Murphy could signal the forthcoming end of Joey Bart’s time in San Francisco. The second overall pick in 2018, Bart has hit only .219/.288/.335 in 162 big league contests. This year marked his final minor league option season, meaning San Francisco will have to carry him on the MLB roster or make him available to other clubs via trade or waivers.
Bailey and Murphy are the top two on the depth chart. Blake Sabol also seems ahead of Bart on the organizational hierarchy, although he has a trio of options and could play the corner outfield. Even if the Giants were to send Sabol to Triple-A, there’s not much value in keeping Bart as a sparsely-used third catcher. A sell-low trade of the former top prospect this offseason seems likely.
The Giants had a payroll in the $155MM range before the Murphy signing, according to Roster Resource. A $4MM salary would push that north of $158MM. The contract’s $4.125MM average annual value puts their luxury tax number around $192MM, about $45MM below next year’s lowest threshold.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic first reported the sides were nearing a multi-year deal, as well as the $8MM guarantee. Jon Heyman of the New York Post was first with an agreement. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported it was a two-year guarantee with a third-year option. Jeff Passan of ESPN was first with the $250K option buyout, which Ari Alexander of KPRC 2 specified was not in the originally reported $8MM total. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the $12MM maximum value.
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