Sean Murphy Trade: A’s Braves Land Catcher in three-team deal; Brewers get William Contreras

The Atlanta Braves on Monday acquired catcher Sean Murphy from the Oakland Athletics in a three-way trade that also sent All-Star William Contreras to the Milwaukee Brewers. A total of nine players traded hands, five went to Oakland.

Here’s the full trade, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan:

  • Getting Braves: C Sean Murphy
  • Get Brewers: C William Contreras, RHP Joel Payamps, LHP Justin Yeager
  • A’s get: OF Esteury Ruiz, LHP Kyle Muller, RHP Freddy Tarnok, C Manny Piña, RHP Royber Salinas

Thanks to an above-average bat and a good glove, 28-year-old Murphy is one of baseball’s best backstops. As of 2020, he has amassed a .235/.326/.422 slash (113 OPS+) while averaging 14 home runs and providing top-notch defense. According to Statcast data, Murphy was in the 86th percentile for framing runs last season. It’s worth wondering if there’s additional offensive potential to unlock here, too, given how he set a new career high in maximum exit velocity last season, ranking in the 94th percentile.

Whether or not Murphy continues to improve, he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season, making him more than a loan or short-term pass. He is expected to make about $3.5 million next season in his first year of arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors estimates.

Of course, Murphy’s availability comes as no surprise. Athletics has been in complete demolition since the owner-imposed lockdown was lifted in March. They sold Matt Olson (also to the Braves), Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea during this time. Murphy’s exit seemed even more certain after the Athletics acquired Shea Langeliers as part of the aforementioned Olson trade. He should be able to slip into the starting eleven.

With Murphy now off the catch market, free agent Christian Vázquez remains available afterward Willson Contreras (yes, William’s brother) went to the Cardinals on a five-year contract.

Barring one more trade, reigning regular Travis d’Arnaud is likely to move to a backup role behind Murphy while he may also see time at DH. Of course, a later deal with d’Arnaud could be the most likely path for Atlanta.

On the other hand, Contreras, who will soon turn 25, has come off a 2022 season in which he slumped .278/.354/.506 on 20 home runs in 97 games. Contreras, who is not scheduled for free agency until after the 2027 season, has a career OPS+ of 120 in chunks of three MLB seasons. He expects to provide Milwaukee with a much-needed mid-order slugger. Payamps, on the other hand, and Yeager will give the Brewers more depth of relief.

From the A’s perspective, the top tracks are Ruiz and Muller. The former is a speedster who has performed well in the little ones but doesn’t hit the ball hard. For his part, Muller has big stuff, but he struggles to capitalize on it, going more than five out of nine in his career. (To his credit, he brought that rate down to 2.7 out of nine last season.) Piña, 35, has a career OPS+ of 90 and has averaged 16 home runs per 62 games over his nine-year career in the majors games scored. Tarnok is likely a hard-throwing reliever, although the A’s might give him a chance to start. Salinas is a young right-hander who is also likely to end up in the bullpen.

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