Signed OF-L David Murphy to a minor-league contract. [4/14]
After signing a minor-league deal with the Red Sox earlier in the offseason, Murphy opted out of his contract in order to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Interestingly, he latched on with the Twins on another minor-league deal, which seems to indicate that he expects to find an easier path to the majors in Minnesota, home to about half a dozen talented outfield prospects, about half of whom hit left-handed. Now, instead of duking it out to slip past Brock Holt and Chris Young on the outfield depth chart, he’ll look to overtake Oswaldo Arcia, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario.
If this was a year ago, I’d be certain Murphy could do it. Despite not being a terribly valuable player in the aggregate since his 2012 season in Texas, he’s also possessed of a long and storied history of adequacy. But after now three full years of meh as the long half of a platoon, and watching Murphy bounce from franchise to franchise, I no longer have much optimism. With this being his age-34 season, and his walk rate taking a nasty dip in 2015 (down to 5.1 percent from a career 8.2 percent mark), I just don’t know if there’s any way he’s worth as much as half a win, even if everything breaks right. I am, like the classic 90s grunge album, Down on the Upside.
But the Twins probably do need an extra pair of hands, given how heavily they are relying on young, unproven talent. Though Murphy was loath to spend 2016 in Pawtucket, perhaps he’ll find Rochester more appealing in the short term. In the long term, it’s only a matter of time before he makes the major-league roster, as injuries will inevitably start picking up. The Twins made it through the spring alright, but now they seem to be starting to lose bodies with Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana finding their way to the DL. At any rate, Murphy may not be the team’s best option as a left-handed corner outfielder—or even the third-best option—but he’s another option, and one with solid experience contributing as a pinch-hitter and righty-smasher. Depth is underrated, even if Murphy probably isn’t anymore.
Optioned OF-L Socrates Brito to the Triple-A Reno Aces. [4/18]
I’ll be honest with you, this transaction isn’t really about Brito. Sure, it’s interesting that the Diamondbacks would call up one of the team’s top prospects—though, to be fair, they’re not exactly flush with prospect talent—at the start of the season, then kick him to the curb just a few weeks in. Brito hasn’t played well in his limited time in Arizona this year, sporting a .226 OBP and a .387 slugging percentage in just 31 plate appearances, but we’re all on board that this is a small sample size, right? With A.J. Pollock out of the picture, Brito was supposed to be the Snakes’ last, best chance at finding reasonable production in center field from within, leveraging a decent hit tool, a little power, and the right kind of glove for the job.
Instead, Chris Owings seems to have won the everyday center fielder job outright, which is as strange as it sounds. As one of the worst everyday players in baseball last season, Owings hit for no power whatsoever (.322 slugging) while also costing the team nearly a run thanks to terrible defense in the middle of the diamond. Sure, he used to be a prospect, but he swings and misses a ton, has no power, and is basically learning the outfield on the fly.
If Owings was suddenly hitting the cover off the ball, this could possibly make sense … but right now his .209 True Average is just a hair better than Brito’s mark of .202. If Owings was looked at as a more foundational piece for the long term than Brito, this could possibly make sense … but Owings is a year older, and doesn’t appear to have any future in the crowded Arizona middle infield or long-term value as the worst-hitting outfielder in baseball. He’s probably just a guy. And sure, Brito may be just a guy too, but he hasn’t gotten the chances Owings has to prove his worth, and looks to carry much more upside for a team looking to contend immediately and build for the future like Arizona. Of course, we’re no stranger here to puzzling moves made by the Arizona front office. This one, though small, may be the most puzzling yet.
Acquired OF-R Alfredo Marte from the Orioles for cash considerations or a player to be named later [4/18]
Sometimes players just fall through the cracks, for lack of a better term. Marte was a middling prospect in the Arizona system, featured in the Futures Game after a Double-A breakout in 2012, before stalling out in Triple-A. Well, that’s not even that fair—his performance in the Pacific Coast League has been just fine during three tours over the past three seasons. No, it’s the jump to the majors that has given Marte trouble, though he’s barely had enough time to prove himself at the top level of the game. His longest run was 44 games in Arizona back in 2014, where he hit about as poorly as one could imagine (.180 True Average) before being run back to Reno.
In the minors, Marte has proven an on-base whiz, pairing solid batting averages with the ability to hunt down the free pass while playing the outfield. Those skills fit a particular need for the rebuilding Phillies, but it’s less about being good at anything than it is about being a living, breathing outfielder. Over the past couple of seasons the Phillies’ outfield has been a bit of a mess, but in 2016 it is shaping up to be a Fallout 3-level disaster. Marte is just the latest poor, unheralded chump to step out of the bunker, look around at the blasted corpses of Cody Asche and Cedric Hunter and Tyler Goeddel and just do his best to survive. The Phillies found Odubel Herrera by plucking under-loved minor leaguers and giving them reps to see if they can hack it. Marte’s just another low-likelihood longshot, among many in Philadelphia.