This morning, it was announced by Jerry Crasnick on Twitter that 34-year-old outfielder David Murphy is headed to the Boston Red Sox on a minor-league contract for the 2016 season. Murphy, drafted by the club with the 17th overall pick in the 2003 draft, will be headed back to the organization for the first time since 2007, when he was traded to the Rangers in the now infamous Eric Gagne trade.
In his 10-year major league career, Murphy owns a respectable .274/.333/.432 slash line in nearly 4,000 plate appearances. In addition, the left-hander has amassed 104 home runs, 203 doubles, and a 1.82 K/BB ratio in the majors. Last season with the Indians, Murphy hit .296/.344/.437 in 229 plate appearances before moving to Los Angeles, where he hit .265/.281/.400 in 155 trips to the plate for the Angels. Luckily for Boston, Fenway Park favors hitters similarly to Progressive Field (the Indians’ home park), while Angel Stadium notoriously favors pitchers.
Murphy’s value with Boston hinges on the ability of the other outfield pieces already in place, namely Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Both have shown the ability to be productive offensively, and Bradley is a proven first division defender, but neither has displayed consistency at the plate enough to be considered locks for an everyday starting position. Should Bradley or Castillo be injured or fail to contribute to the offense at a consistent rate, Murphy could be called upon to fill in an outfield role.
Currently, the Red Sox fourth outfielder is 32-year-old Chris Young, who was signed to a two-year, $13 million dollar deal this offseason. As it stands now, Young will be primarily used as a platoon starter against left-handed pitchers, whom he owns an impressive .263/.362/.474 line against. Should Murphy be called upon to suit up for the Red Sox, he could prove to be an effective compliment to Young in the Boston outfield. While his platoon splits are not as drastic as Young’s, Murphy sports a career .278/.341/.454 line against right-handers.
While a Young-Murphy platoon would be somewhat of a disappointment to Red Sox fans, who have high expectations for their current outfield configuration (Castillo-Bradley-Mookie Betts), the situation certainly could work out better than Young playing every day, or having Brock Holt or Travis Shaw playing out of position in a corner outfield spot. Should Murphy make it to the big leagues this season, his base salary will be a modest $2 million.
Although there would have to be some unfortunate circumstances for Murphy to be forced into the plans for Boston this season, he will provide some good outfield insurance for a club that didn’t have much going into spring training. If used in a platoon role alongside Young, Murphy could even become a valuable asset to the club in the absence of Bradley or Castillo. For the time being, Red Sox fans shouldn’t hope to see much of Murphy in the majors this year, but should the need for a fill-in arise, they should be satisfied knowing that they have a capable player in the organization to provide some depth. This is a move that won’t attract too much national attention, but the Red Sox front office did well to fill a hole in the roster that could have come back to bite them down the line.