Minnesota Twins acquire catcher John Ryan Murphy


An active start to the off season continued for the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, trading switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy.

Murphy, 24, batted .277/.327/.406 in 155 at-bats last season in the Bronx. He’s controlled through 2021 and doesn’t hit arbitration until the 2018 season, giving the Twins an extra year of control over Hicks.

Hicks, 26, posted a career year in 2015 batting .256/.323/.398 with 11 home runs, 13 steals and impressive defense. He, however, has failed to establish himself as a consistent performer at the big-league level.

For Minnesota, the acquisition of Murphy is an instant upgrade at catcher, and he’ll share time with Kurt Suzuki, thus removing the Twins from Matt Wieters rumors and very likely A.J. Pierzynski.

Trading Hicks makes for an immediate suggestion that General Manager Terry Ryan is serious about Miguel Sano playing in the outfield, though he isn’t doing so in the Dominican Republic leagues now. It also makes a few other roster decisions easier as Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana have run out of minor league options, and were considered fringe players.

With the depth of Arcia, Santana and second-year left fielder Eddie Rosario, the Hicks trade doesn’t necessarily guarantee an Opening Day roster spot for Byron Buxton or organizational top-10 prospect Max Kepler, but a strong performance this spring would win one of them a spot.

It does signal the value the front office placed on Hicks. Once a top prospect, he’s improved in small increments at the plate since arriving in 2013, most notably reducing his strikeout rate from 26 percent to 16 percent in those three seasons. But overall, Hicks has mostly been a disappointment.

His slight resurgence in 2015 gave him enough value with the bat to make him a trade chip, and a solid defensive buy for any team. I wrote in my outfielders outlook that I wasn’t yet sold on Hicks, and trading him was possible if the Twins felt him to be too inconsistent.

Minnesota on Monday won the $12.85 million bid to negotiate with Korean first base slugger Byung-ho Park. The move suggested a Trevor Plouffe trade was imminent, and it still might be, but today’s developments give more credence to Ryan stacking upside talent where available and affordable.

By controlling Murphy through 2021, the Twins found their catcher of the future without paying big bucks to Wieters, settling on an older platoon in Pierzynski or rushing Stuart Turner or Mitch Garver along. The two minor league catchers can be handled in a way that allows the Twins to develop them accordingly.

The Twins on Tuesday swapped projected backup catcher Chris Herrmann to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder/first base prospect Daniel Palka.

The Twins figure to still be in the market for bullpen help. A Plouffe trade is also still possible, which would free up third base for Sano, and first base/DH time if a Park agreement is reached.