Ever since the baseball Winter Meetings wrapped up last week, MLB free agency has been quiet. Suspiciously quiet. But the Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics have provided a lifeline with a Sean Murphy trade, and there’s even a third team involved, with the Milwaukee Brewers jumping in as well.
According to Jeff Passan, the Braves have landed the 28-year-old Gold Glove catcher for a collection of both MLB-ready players plus prospects within Atlanta’s farm system.
It’s a big trade, helping the Braves win now while furthering Oakland’s perpetual rebuild as they find younger, more affordable talent. Down below, we break down what the trade means for all three teams, in a more detailed form.
Here are the specifics of the trade for now.
- Atlanta Braves get: Sean Murphy
- Oakland Athletics get: C Manny Pina, OF Esteury Ruiz, LHP Kyle Muller, RHP Freddy Tarnok, RHP Royber Salinas
- Milwaukee Brewers get: C William Contreras, RHP Joel Payamps, RHP Justin Yeager
What Sean Murphy brings to Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves may have already had two players who play catcher that made the All-Star game a season ago, but neither are as good as Sean Murphy. He’s one of the best defensive backstops in baseball and won a Gold Glove in 2021 while committing just six errors in 923.1 innings.
But here’s the thing, Murphy isn’t just elite behind the plate. He’s also very good with the bat. Murphy plated 18 home runs in 2022 after hitting 17 the year prior. Playing in 148 games, Murphy had the second-most ‘barrels’ among catchers.
He’s expected to receive roughly $3.3 million in arbitration and is under team control until 2026, giving the Braves a premier two-way backstop for years to come. He’ll immediately provide a boost in the field and in the everyday lineup.
Oakland Athletics’ trade returns for Sean Murphy, evaluated
For Oakland, trading Murphy comes as no surprise. We’ve seen the Athletics part with several proven pieces in past years, trying to sell high at the optimal time. They weren’t going to pay Murphy long-term, so the front office decided to capitalize on his growth by landing more future lotto tickets.
The A’s managed to snag left-handed pitching prospect Kyle Muller from the Braves, who’s the headliner prospect in this trade. He’s Atlanta’s top prospect in their organization, according to MLB.com, and at 25, he’s ready to join the big-league club in Oaktown.
The 6-foot-7 lefty has pitched 49 innings with the Braves over the past two seasons but has struggled to catch on, pitching to a 5.14 ERA in limited action. He’s expected to have a much longer leash in his new digs.
One of the other prime pieces involved in this trade heading back to Oakland includes outfielder Esteury Ruiz, who is ranked as the eighth-best prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system. He’s considered an MLB-ready talent who reached the majors for just three games last year but flashed his skills in the minors.
Ruiz is a certified speed threat on the basepaths, stealing 85 bases in 114 games in 2022. He also hit 16 home runs, drove in 65 runs, and hit .332 across 541 plate appearances. He’ll likely receive immediate playing time in the Oakland outfield.
Lastly, the A’s also landed RHP Freddy Tarnok from Atlanta. He’s their sixth-best prospect, is still just 24, and has a powerful fastball that can touch 95 mph. Yet his other pitches, namely a reliable curveball, a developing slider, and changeup are also solid complementary pieces that he’s still refining.
Tarnok split time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022, where he struck out 124 batters across 106.2 innings pitched. He’s likely to receive an invite to spring training, where he could vie for a spot in the rotation.
The Athletics added yet another young arm, prying the 18th-ranked prospect, RHP Royber Salinas, from the Braves. He’s just 21 years old, is likely a year or two away from making big-league contributions, as he’s yet to make it above A-ball. But his 175 Ks in 109 innings will have fans intrigued by his long-term development.
He’s a hard-tossing right-hander who’s 98 mph fastball is his best pitch. In all, the Athletics vastly improved their farm system despite parting with arguably one of their best players. It may not deliver immediate results, but then again, Muller, Ruiz, and possibly even Tarnok could all see big roles in 2022.
Milwaukee Brewers land All-Star hitter
Apparently, the Milwaukee Brewers heard of the trade winds and couldn’t turn down the opportunity to add an All-Star who splits time between catcher and designated hitter. William Contreras, brother of Willson, was a first-time All-Star in 2022, is still just 24, and hit 20 home runs for the Braves across 97 games.
He may not be on Murphy’s level with the glove, but he can provide a spark in the middle of the Brew Crew’s lineup. Perhaps the best part is that he’s under team control through 2027, giving the Brewers a long-term answer, and perhaps Milwaukee can continue working with him on improving his glove.
The Brewers also landed 24-year-old left-handed pitcher Justin Yeager from the Braves. He’s yet to make it above AA ball, but he’s being developed in relief and even saw many closing opportunities. He struck out 54 batters and walked 23 in 52.1 innings, finishing with a WHIP of 1.166 and could factor into the bullpen in the near future.