Sean Murphy trades: Braves land catcher from A’s in three-team deal; Brewers get William Contreras

The Atlanta Braves acquired catcher Sean Murphy from the Oakland Athletics on Monday as part of a three-way trade that also sent All-Star William Contreras to the Milwaukee Brewers. In total, nine players swapped hands, with five heading to Oakland.

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

  • Braves get: C Sean Murphy
  • Brewers get: 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

Murphy, 28, is one of the top overall backstops in baseball thanks to an above-average stick and a good glove. Since 2020, he’s amassed a .235/.326/.422 slash line (113 OPS+) while averaging 14 home runs and providing top-notch defense. To wit, Murphy ranked in the 86th percentile in framing runs last season, according to Statcast’s data. It’s worth wondering if there’s some additional offensive upside to unlock here, too, seeing as how he set a new career-high in maximum exit velocity last season, ranking in the 94th percentile.

Regardless of whether or not Murphy improves further, he will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season, making him more than a rental or short-term fit. He’s projected to make about $3.5 million next season in what serves as his first year of arbitration eligibility, per the estimates housed at MLB Trade Rumors.

Of course, Murphy’s availability comes as no surprise. The Athletics have been in the process of a full teardown since the owner-imposed lockout was lifted in March. They’ve traded Matt Olson (also to the Braves), Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas, and Sean Manaea during that time. Murphy’s departure seemed even more certain after the Athletics acquired Shea Langeliers as part of the aforementioned Olson trade. He should be able to slide into the starting lineup.

With Murphy now off the catching market, free agent Christian Vázquez remains available after Willson Contreras (yes, William’s brother) went to the Cardinals we have a five-year deal.

Barring another trade, incumbent regular Travis d’Arnaud likely shifts to a backup role behind Murphy while also perhaps seeing time at DH. Of course, a subsequent deal involving Arnaud may be the likely path for Atlanta.

On the other side, Contreras, who soon turns 25, is coming off a 2022 season in which he slashed .278/.354/.506 with 20 home runs in 97 games. Contreras, who’s not slated for free agency until after the 2027 season, has a career OPS+ of 120 across parts of three MLB seasons. He figures to provide Milwaukee with a sorely needed middle-of-the-order bat. Payamps, meanwhile and Yeager, meanwhile, will provide the Brewers with more relief depth.

From the A’s perspective, the top pieces are Ruiz and Muller. The former is a speedster who performed well in the minors but who does not hit the ball hard. Muller, for his part, has big stuff but he’s struggled to harness it, walking more than five per nine per his career. (To his credit, he cut that rate to 2.7 per nine last season.) Piña, 35, has a career OPS+ of 90, and across his nine-year career in the majors he’s averaged 16 home runs per 62 games played. Tarnok is likely a hard-throwing reliever, though the A’s could give him a chance to start. Salinas is a young righty who seems likely to end up in the bullpen as well.

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