The Minnesota Twins needed a catcher this offseason, that much was obvious. Veteran starter Kurt Suzuki dipped off after an All-Star 2014 season and he didn’t have much help from backups Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer, who batted a miserable .160 when put together.
With rumors connecting Minnesota to free-agent names like A.J. Pierzynski and Matt Wieters, it seemed like the team settled for New York Yankees backup John Ryan Murphy via trade when they sent Aaron Hicks to the Bronx earlier in the week. But just hours later it was announced that Pierzynski was returning to the Atlanta Braves on a one-year deal, and yesterday the world learned that Weiters would be accepting his qualifying offer with the Baltimore Orioles. The Twins never really had a shot to pull in any catchers on their free-agent wish list, making Murphy more than a player they simply settled for with a weak free-agent field at the position and little help behind the plate coming up through the minor leagues.
The 24-year-old Murphy jumped around between the Majors and minors in 2013 and 2014, but finally got the opportunity to be a full-time backup for Brian McCann last season, and was very productive, slashing .277/.327/.406, a big upgrade for a position group that hit just .224/.287/.308 last year.
Minnesota gave up a solid piece on paper in Aaron Hicks, a 26-year-old switch-hitting outfielder who brings a strong glove to the table at all three outfield positions. Hicks has loads of potential and might work out well with the Yankees after he “turned a corner” with the Twins in 2015, but a turnaround season for Hicks only saw him hit .256. It was remarkable seeing as he was only a .201 career hitter though his first 150 games heading into this year, but for all the potential the Twins lost in this trade they were able to fill a position of need with a younger hitter who might be more well-rounded as a Major League hitter right now.
Murphy might have even turned a bit of a corner himself last season with a strong second half. The former second round pick hit .299 in 36 games after July 1, a stretch that included all three of his home runs on the season. The first of those three home runs is one that Twins fans might remember well; a three run homer in the top of the 9th inning off All-Star closer Glen Perkins to break a 5-5 tie and eventually lead New York to victory over Minnesota.
While Minnesota never had a shot to sign any of the top veteran backstops on the market, the Twins came away with a young catcher who has the potential to not only take over for Suzuki as soon at the upcoming 2016 season, but can be the starting catchers for years to come. General Manager Terry Ryan fixed an issue that he needed to address this offseason and Minnesota is now a better team going forward because of it.