Rockies place catcher Murphy on waivers

Wolters, Iannetta to platoon behind plate; spot could open for Nicholas

March 24th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies have settled on Tony Wolters and Chris Iannetta as their catchers -- a decision that came into focus Saturday when Major League sources told that the club has placed Tom Murphy on waivers to gauge trade interest.

Last season, Iannetta appeared defensively at catcher in 99 games and started 83, and Wolters appeared behind the plate in 64 games and started 56. But with Iannetta turning 36 on April 8, the Rockies spent much of the offseason working with Wolters to find a solid game plan offensively after his batting average tumbled to .170 last season.

Wolters, 26, played just once between March 8 and March 15 because of illnesses, first with a stomach bug and later with an upper-respiratory infection. But since regaining health, Wolters was 5-for-10 with a home run in his last five games, including 1-for-1 in Saturday night’s 11-6 victory over the Cubs, and the plan to see if he can grab a bigger load of the playing time came back into focus.

Both catchers are considered solid defensively and in game-calling, with Wolters having bonded especially with righty German Marquez, who had a breakout 2018, and Iannetta having worked well with lefty Kyle Freeland, who finished fourth last year in National League Cy Young Award voting.

Murphy, 27, entered Spring Training out of Minor League options and hit .250 with three home runs and six RBIs. However, the club has considered Wolters and Iannetta ahead of Murphy defensively, which carried more weight with the club’s prized young pitching staff. 

Murphy, a third-round pick in 2012, was a touted prospect, but appeared in just 27 Double-A games in 2014 because of a right shoulder injury. He missed three months in 2017 after sustaining a fractured right forearm and has seen his opportunities with the Rockies narrow. Over four seasons of brief Major League action, Murphy has a .219 batting average with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs. But last season, he hit .226 with two homers, 11 RBIs and 44 strikeouts in 93 at-bats.

The Rockies have been believed to have been looking for a trade fit, and the waiver placement is part of that process. If the Rockies designate him for assignment and he is claimed by another club or waived, they can outright him to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Also, non-roster catcher Brett Nicholas, believed earlier Saturday to be headed out of the Colorado organization, could stick around for insurance. The club informed Nicholas on Saturday that he would not make the Opening Day roster and manager Bud Black said he was expected to seek his release from the Rockies.

But if Murphy leaves the organization, there could be room for Nicholas to serve as depth at Albuquerque. Nicholas, 30, appeared in 36 Major League games with the Rangers in 2016 and 2017 (.252, four HR, 15 RBIs). Iannetta, Wolters, Murphy and Nicholas are the only catchers in the Rockies’ system to have ever appeared in a Major League game.