Murphy, who will turn 25 in May, hit .277/.327/.406 in 172 plate appearances this year as Brian McCann's primary backup. He's had brief Major League appearances in 2013 and 2014 as well.
A second round pick by the Bombers in 2009, Murphy slowly worked his way up the minor league ladder before making his Major League debut with a cup of coffee in 2013. He carries a bit of pop in his bat and will take a walk, both evident in his .259/.321/.416 triple slash in 453 plate appearances at Triple-A.
Murphy's status as a prospect is up and down, ranking in the Yankees' top 15 five times according to Baseball America; that includes three seasons in which he was one of the organization's top three prospects. Here's what Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs had to say about him back in January:
Murphy is somewhere around Refsnyder as an upper level position player ready to contribute to the big league team, but scouts are a little more wary of Murphy’s chance to become an everyday player. He’s a 50 hit, 40 power type without a ton of offensive impact, but he’s better defensively, with a plus arm and at least average defensive skills. Some scouts still see some aspects of defense for him to work on, but indications from the analytical folks are that he’s an above average framer, so if that holds up and he reaches his offensive upside, there could be an everyday catcher here.
If you want to know what the Yankees themselves thought, here's a clip from River Avenue Blues:
"He’s different, he’s special. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever had—and that’s 40 years of some of the greatest catchers who have ever been behind the plate," said bullpen coach Gary Tuck, an ex-big league catcher and longtime catching instructor, to Dan Barbarisi back in May. "A championship player. And I don’t say that about many people. He’s right there—Joe Girardi, Jason Varitek, John Ryan Murphy. A championship player."
This move isn't unsurprising considering the Twins' decision-making on catchers recently, but it is surprising that Minnesota moved so quickly to address the issue. Whether or not Murphy is the end of the discussion in terms of the club's attempt to upgrade the position is yet to be determined, but if Minnesota believes he's a long-term solution then that will become apparent pretty quickly.
Murphy is under team control through 2020, and won't be eligible for arbitration until 2018.
The departure of Hicks opens up some interesting options for the Twins' outfield forecast. We'll talk about that a bit later.