- Rating: 3.18
- Age: 28
- 2019 stats: 69 PA, .177/.250/.419 = .669 OPS, 0.2 bWAR
- 2019 salary: $900,000
- 2020 status: Arbitration eligible for the Atlanta Braves (non-tender candidate)
It is difficult to imagine that anyone benefited more from Arizona’s three-catcher roster construction than the out of minor league options John Ryan Murphy. Despite being well-liked by many Arizona fans, the fact that the biggest highlights of Murphy’s 2019 season came from the mound instead of at or behind the plate should give some sort of idea of how challenged he was to stick on a Major League roster.
Questions about just how long Murphy could remain on the roster began before the season ever began. With Carson Kelly coming over as a key member of the Paul Goldschmidt trade, the Diamondbacks finally had themselves a defensively gifted, starting-calibur catcher for the first time since early days Miguel Montero. Adding to Murphy’s complications was the presence of left-hand hitting Alex Avila entrenched as a high-OBP back-up. Still, not only did Murphy manage to remain on the 25-man roster, he was the Opening Day starter behind the dish.
Two days later on March 30th, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks like a drum. Zack Godley was the starter. The pit already covered his woeful 2019 here. In his first start of the season, he allowed eight runs through 5 ⅓ innings. He was relieved by Matt Koch, who allowed three more in his two-thirds of an inning. Down 11-3 entering the bottom of the seventh, Torey Lovullo turned to Murphy to pitch in a mop-up role. Things were a bit rough for Murphy. He loaded the bases in the inning and with two outs, NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger came to the plate. The result can be seen here:
Escaping the seventh without allowing a run, Murphy was sent back out to pitch the eighth as well. That frame did not go nearly as well. He allowed seven more Dodgers to cross the plate before he was mercifully allowed to head back to the dugout and the locker room.
What might be the most memorable night for Murphy at the plate in 2019 came only three nights later. It was in San Diego that he got another start behind the plate, catching Zack Greinke. He went 3-for-5, collecting both his first hit and first home run of the season. Generally, this would not be very notable, except for the baseball drama tied to his home run.With the Diamondbacks leading 4-2, Murphy led off the sixth inning by putting his light tower power on display, hitting a tater off a structure in the third deck. As he was batting eighth in the lineup, his moonshot was followed by Zack Greinke coming to the plate. Greinke must have liked what he saw, as he too went yard, hitting a homer of his own. The combination of Murphy and Greinke going back-to-back was the offensive difference maker in the game.
Finally, on May 6th, John Ryan Murphy was once again called upon to pitch in mop-up duty after Zack Godley threw gasoline on the dumpster fire of a poor Merrill Kelly start. Going into the bottom of the eighth down 10-0, Murphy was asked to come out from behind the plate and to take the mound.
Sadly, that was the last pseudo-highlight for Murphy in 2019. Before May was done, he was cut from the roster. On May 25th, the Diamondbacks designated Murphy for assignment. He cleared waivers and was sent to Reno. The Atlanta Braves came calling and picked him up as a depth move in exchange for cash. On September 24th, he received one pinch-hit at-bat and flew out to center field. That was his only appearance before for the Braves, who elected to leave him off their postseason roster.
Murphy’s future is now in the hands of the Atlanta Braves. He is almost certain to be non-tendered. Technically speaking, that would open the door for him to be reunited with the Diamondbacks in 2020. That said, with Caleb Joseph already in-house, it seems prohibitively unlikely that Arizona will bother exploring a reunion. Still injuries and the like could change things - maybe.