Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I might like the Twins trade of Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for John Ryan Murphy, under one condition

The Twins have been very busy so far this off-season, making moves that netted them Daniel Palka, Dan Runzler, the ability to exclusively negotiate with Byung Ho Park,  and today they traded OF Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for back up Catcher John Ryan Murphy.  There has been a lot written about this trade already, so I will not really get into details that you can read (if you not already have) elsewhere, but just want to analyze its potential effect to the 2016 Twins.

If you cannot tell from the title of this piece, I am very lukewarm (at least) about this trade.  Why?  Here are the reasons:

  • Hicks and his play in the outfield was one of the biggest reasons the 2015 Twins were competitive.   They needed to fix outfield defense, and they did.   Hicks was part of the solution in 2015.  There is talk about replacing Hicks at CF with Byron Buxton (probably the best case scenario if his bat is ready, but will it be ready?)  returning back to Danny Santana, who was part of the outfield problem in 2014, or potentially using Eddie Rosario, which might make sense, but would take a plus corner outfielder away.   Just the fact that they are considering Santana as a replacement (unless it is empty talk) makes me think that Terry Ryan and company have learned nothing.
  • There were personality clash issues between Hicks and Gardenhire's staff, when he was thrown under the bus for "being late in meetings", "not knowing who the opposing pitcher is" etc; but Hicks was fine under Molitor and even though I dismiss those allegations much faster than the Twins dismissed their source, there might be something there
  • Despite Cashman trying to build up Murphy as a starting catcher at this point, actions speak louder than words:  He did not use him as the starting catcher.  And if a player is not good enough to be a starter in a contender, why should he be a starter for the Twins?
  • Of course Murphy is just 24, was rated the Yankees' 4th best prospect in 2014, despite the difficulties with blocking balls and throwing runners out, he is an above average pitch framer (a trade he learned from Tony Pena.)  The other encouraging thing, is that Murphy was an outfielder in High School who has been converted to a catcher and his defense in blocking balls and throwing runners out, even though not up to par, has been improving.  
  • Very hard to tell how Murphy will end up being with the bat as the most-days catcher, because the data we have is from sporadic back up play.  The last couple of seasons in the majors, he had an acceptable slash line, however his BABIP jumped to the mid-high s300s from the high .200s in the minors?  Did he turn a corner and made adjustments or is it an artifact of the small sample?   His K% has been in the low 20s, which is also worrisome.  But he can improve.
  • My biggest objection with this trade, was pretty much part of this analysis: The Twins in 2015 were not good against RHPs, and they need to improve, so if they were looking for a Catcher to platoon with Kurt Suzuki, they need a LHB who will play more (against RHPs) and can hit RHP better than Suzuki.  Murphy is not this; you cannot platoon same-side hitters; you can use them on different situations.  Murphy hits lefties pretty well, but struggles against RHPs; as a matter of fact, Suzuki is better than Murphy against RHPs.  At this point, other than fewer concussions, I am not sure that Murphy is bringing more to a competing team (remember that little detail?) than Josmil Pinto does.  As a matter of fact he might be bringing less to the table at this point.
However, I said that I might like this trade under one condition.  What would this condition be?   If the Twins use Murphy as the (less playing) Right hand side of a platoon against LHPs, let him develop a bit, and get a lefty or switch-hitting starting Catcher to face RHP, cutting ties with Suzuki.  If that happens, that trade might be ok.  The off-season is still young...






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