MINNEAPOLIS — When Tom Murphy was acquired by the Mariners on March 29 in a minor trade with the Giants, he pleased many folks with the revelation he’s a huge fan of “The Office” and was watching reruns at home when he found out he’d been traded to Seattle.
But the Mariners got something more than just a player who has quality taste in television. They got a solid right-handed hitting catcher with power who forms the perfect platoon tandem with the left-handed hitting Omar Narvaez.
In 24 games played, Murphy has a slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .304/.329/.620 with four doubles, seven homers and 14 RBI while working diligently to improve his defense.
“He’s got power,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s a really competitive and intense guy. We talk about how hard he works. He’s done a lot of things with (hitting coach) Tim Laker and it’s paying off.”
Thanks to some swing changes he made with Laker, Murphy has been on a hitting surge of late. He’s registered at least one hit in each of his past nine games and has five homers in his past five games.
“I would say the mechanics followed the approach changes,” Murphy said of the work. “I’ve started working with Laker on those since Day 1 when I got here. I knew his pedigree of helping guys and I just submitted myself to whatever he had for me. And it’s worked pretty well.”
As most hitters, Murphy wouldn’t share the exact specifics on the changes but said they would be noticeable upon comparison to his previous swings before coming to Seattle. And this was by his design.
“They were pretty hands off,” he said. “I approached them before they approached me. I knew about Lake and in talking with some guys that worked with him in the past, they had nothing but good things to say about him. I was just as eager as I could be to try this.”
Murphy had been stuck in baseball limbo coming out of spring training because of a lack of minor-league options. He was designated for assignment by the Rockies midway through spring training and claimed by the Giants on March 25.
He was then designated for assignment by the Giants just before opening day. The Mariners didn’t want to play the waivers game and lose out on a claim, so they made a small trade to get a backup catcher upgrade over David Freitas.
For Murphy, the opportunity provided by the Mariners has changed his career path. He was once a touted prospect with the Rockies but never found consistent playing time at the MLB level.
“It means the world to me,” he said. “It’s the opportunity to play in the big leagues every day. Whether I start or back up, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going come here every day and make the most out of the opportunity.”
He starts when there’s a left-handed starter on the mound and he’s also become Mike Leake’s personal catcher. He’s also got three relief appearances in mop-up time this year, showing a 90 mph fastball.
“I’ve tried to keep my mind devoid of any playing-time stuff,” he said. “All I know is that I’m here and I’m going to try and make the most out of it.”
The Mariners love Murphy’s work ethic and intensity. He’s listed at 225 pounds and it appears to almost all muscle.
“He likes the weight room,” Servais said.
But it’s not just all bulk, Murphy is a quality athlete. Besides his relief pitching prowess, he runs the bases well. The Rockies used SPARQ testing in their system. It stands for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness. It’s a system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism through a series of tests. Murphy consistently had one of the top five SPARQ scores every season.
The Power gets some power back
The West Virginia Power, the Mariners’ Low-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League, will get some reinforcements after losing stud outfielder Jarred Kelenic to a promotion to High-A Modesto.
Outfielder Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners’ No. 5 prospect in the organization per Baseball America, was activated from the injured list and placed on the Power’s active roster. Rodriguez was hit in the left hand by a fastball April 12, suffering a hairline fracture in his third metacarpal. He was placed on the injured list and spent the time since rehabbing and working out at the team’s spring facility in Arizona.
Rodriguez had a slash line of .355/.442/.452 with three doubles and three RBI in nine games before the injury.
Major League Baseball released its first update to the American League All-Star voting. Seattle had just two players in the top 10 voting at a position. Dee Gordon was eighth in voting at second base with 63,483 while Daniel Vogelbach also was eighth at designated hitter with 131,700 votes.
Edwin Encarnacion, who is listed as a first baseman on the ballot, is not in the top 10 in voting despite leading the American League with 20 homers and is fourth in RBI.
They always get better
A long running meme/mindset of Mariners fans is that players who struggle in Seattle uniforms suddenly find success once they leave the organization.
Jay Bruce has done nothing to dispel such rudimentary and subjective analysis.
Monday morning, Bruce was named the National League player of the week eight days after the Mariners traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies.
In his first six games with the Phillies, Bruce hit .381 (8 for 21) with a 1.048 slugging percentage, two doubles, four homers, 11 RBI and six runs scored. He hit homers in three consecutive games and became the first Phillies player in the modern era to hit four homers in his first four games with the team.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bruce became the third player with at least four home runs and 11 RBI through his first five games with a team since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920. He joined Reggie Sanders (Pittsburgh, 2003) and Trevor Story (Colorado, 2016) in that group.
Seattle sent Bruce and almost $18 million in cash to the Phillies in exchange for minor-league infielder Jake Scheiner.
The Mariners basically saved about $3 million on the $21-plus million owed to Bruce through the 2020 season while getting a player who one professional scout labeled — “just a throw-in guy.”
The Mariners found there wasn’t much of a trade market for the 32-year-old Bruce and his hefty salary remaining, who hit .212 with Seattle with an .816 on-base plus slugging percentage, 11 doubles, 14 homers, 28 RBI, 16 walks and 53 strikeouts.