The New York Yankees have some work to do this offseason after they failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. Thus, they are going to need to do some maneuvering this offseason, but this time around they might not have the room to add as much salary as they did in the 2013-14 offseason.
Because of this, they might need to get creative to acquire talent in trades, dealing from a position of depth to add to a position of weakness. To do this, they should consider trading catcher J.R. Murphy.
The 23-year-old Murphy might not be a heralded prospect, but he has been solid if unspectacular in his minor league career. The former second-round draft pick has a career .263/.327/.406 line in the minors, including a .256/.321/.416 line in 110 Triple-A games. He’s also hit a great .280/.335/.470 against lefties since 2011 in the minors. Murphy has the ability to hit for solid contact and power, and while he may never be a Silver Slugger winner, his bat profiles well at catcher.
At the very least, he is a guy who can start against every left-hander, but he has the ability to be at least average against righties as well.
Defensively, meanwhile, Murphy was drafted with the expectation that a move to third base or left field was possible, if not likely. However, he’s made huge strides with his defense since being drafted. He has solid receiving skills, a decent arm and posses good athleticism. Like his hitting, he’s never going to win any awards for his defense, but in the end he can be an average or slightly above-average defensive catcher in the big leagues.
Murphy is a safe bet to become a platoon catcher in the big leagues, and he has the upside of being able to become an average everyday catcher. Also, at 23 years old, he still has time to develop his overall skillset. The problem is that the Yankees possess great depth at catcher. They recently signed Brian McCann to a deal through the 2019 season, Francisco Cervelli hit .301/.370/.432 in a backup role in 2014, and Gary Sanchez, who is one of the top catching prospects in baseball, spent 2014 at Double-A and is not far off from being big league-ready.
Of that group, Murphy is the most desirable trade chip. He will bring back a better return than McCann and Cervelli given his youth, upside, years of control, and the fact he will play at the league minimum for the next three seasons. Trading Sanchez would be giving up a player that could turn into a star, and the Yankees certainly do not want to do that. So, it make sense to deal Murphy in order to acquire someone in a position of need like third base, shortstop or starting pitcher.
The Yankees have rare depth at catcher, and they need to take advantage of that this offseason. Good catchers that can both hit and play defense are very desirable via trade, and thus the Yankees should be able to get a solid return for Murphy. Plus, he is still young, and he’s cheap and controllable. Therefore, the Yankees need to strongly consider trading Murphy this offseason to add to an area of need.