Atlanta Braves Add Coveted Catcher Sean Murphy In Three-Team Trade

After finding the current free-agent market too costly, the Atlanta Braves did business the old-fashioned way: they made a pair of trades.

Their latest move was a rare three-team trade Monday that actually involved three catchers. Atlanta acquired Sean Murphy from Oakland while sending William Contreras to Milwaukee and Manny Pina to Oakland.

Last week, the Braves landed hard-throwing right-handed reliever Joe Jiménez from the Detroit Tigers for two minor-leaguers, outfielder Justyn-Henry Malloy and left-handed pitcher Jake Higginbotham.

Murphy, who won a Gold Glove in 2021 and hit a career-best 18 homers last year, was coveted by several clubs during the San Diego winter meetings that concluded last week.

The 28-year-old right-handed hitter, who had spent his entire career with the Athletics, was expensive, costing the Braves five young players plus Pina, the veteran back-up catcher.

Kyle Muller, a left-handed starter, and Freddy Tarnok, a young righty who also didn’t figure to crack the 2023 Atlanta rotation, went to Oakland, while Contreras, who started the 2022 All-Star Game as the National League’s designated hitter, went to Milwaukee.

It is the second time this year that the Braves yielded multiple players to land an Oakland position player. Atlanta acquired first baseman Matt Olson in March – and signed him to an eight-year contract a day later – after failing to retain free-agent first baseman Freddie Freeman, who eventually signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The latest trade is a curious one for the Braves, whose greatest needs are a shortstop and left-fielder.

Dansby Swanson, an All-Star and Gold Glove winner last season, is an Atlanta native who is one of two premier shortstops, along with Carlos Correa, on the open market. But the Braves have thus far found his asking price – and even the lower costs of potential free-agent left-fielders – to be excessive in a runaway market.

After denying rumors of an imminent Murphy deal early last week, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger.

Murphy is the lone player headed to Atlanta, though Milwaukee got three (Contreras plus pitchers Justin Yeager and Joel Payamps), and Oakland obtained five (Muller, Tarnok, Pina, pitcher Royber Salinas, and jack-of-all-trades Esteury Ruiz).

The Braves already have a solid No. 1 catcher in Travis d’Arnaud, a 2022 All-Star. But d’Arnaud, 33, will become a free agent after the 2023 season unless the Braves pick up his $8 million club option. Both d’Arnaud and Murphy hit 18 home runs last season.

Murphy is under team control for three more seasons and cannot become a free agent until the end of the 2025 campaign. He was Oakland’s No. 1 backstop for the past three seasons.

If d’Arnaud does the bulk of the catching for the Braves again, Murphy could spend considerable time as the team’s designated hitter, a role filled by Contreras and Marcel Ozuna in 2022.

Trading Contreras, 24, was a surprise to Braves fans who saw him hit 20 homers in 97 games while becoming an All-Star for the first time. Some scouts consider him a better hitter than his brother Willson, the National League’s starting catcher in the 2022 All-Star Game. But he can’t match Murphy’s defensive skills.

Willson Contreras will also have a new team in 2023 after he signed a five-year, $87.5 million contract to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, where he will succeed the retiring Yadier Molina as the starting catcher.

Piña, 35, played in five games last season before breaking his wrist.

Former Braves prospect Shea Langeliers, a 2019 first-round pick who saw limited action in 40 games as a rookie with the A’s in 2022, figures to be Oakland’s new starting catcher.

Adding Murphy bolsters an Atlanta roster that won 101 games in 2022 and a fifth straight National League East title – the longest active streak of any team in the majors.