Catcher Sean Murphy was handed a six-year, $73 million contract extension today by the Braves. There is a $15 million club option with an expiration date of 2029 and no buyout clause in the agreement. Murphy will receive $4 million in 2023, $9 million in 2024 and $15 million between 2025 and 2028 as part of the agreement. In addition, he will donate one percent of his income to the Atlanta Braves Foundation.
Rowley Sports Management’s client was the star in a three-team deal earlier this month involving the Braves, Brewers and Athletics. This contract buys out the last three years of club control and the possible four free-agency years for Murphywhich was eligible for arbitration in its first year in 2023.
This latest deal adds Murphy to the growing list of current Braves who have signed long-term contracts while still under the control of the club (see also: Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Spencer Strider and Michael Harris). Now Atlanta controls that pool of players through 2027, with only Acuna Jr.’s contracts remaining. and Albies expire before 2029.
Murphy, at age 28, has become one of the best catchers in baseball during his time with the Oakland Athletics. Over the course of four MLB seasons, he has hit 46 home runs and has a batting line of .236/.326/.429. That’s good for a 116 wRC+, meaning he hits at a 16 percent higher level than the typical batsman in his league. In 2022, he also improved at the plate, posting a .250/.332/.426 slash over 612 at bats and a career lowest strikeout percentage of about 5%.
As of 2020, he is in the league’s top ten with 12 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). By Fangraphs’ framing measure, he was also the third-best pitcher-framer within that time frame. Overall, his career total of 10.6 fWAR is a result of his stellar defense and above-average offense, with 2022 accounting for 5.1 of that total.
Murphy was one of the most talked about trade goods in baseball this offseason due to his strong play, Oakland’s rebuilding and lack of free agents. Certainly, he was linked to no less than nine other clubs in the weeks leading up to his transfer on December 12. The Braves transferred Royber Salinas, Manny Pina, Kyle Muller and Freddy Tarnok to the Athletics, while the Brewers received William Contreras and Justin Yeager in a classic blockbuster deal.
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Given that the Braves already had a solid catching combination with Travis D’Arnaud, Ronald Pina and Willson Contreras signing on going forward, the game with Atlanta wasn’t always the most obvious fit on paper. However, general manager Alex Anthopolous saw an opportunity to improve the team as a whole by trading out Pina and Contreras to create a spot for Murphy.
It is now the second consecutive winter that Atlanta has traded for one of Oakland’s players, quickly renewing him.. They bought out Olson’s contract in the off-season and immediately extended it for eight years and $168 million. Olson is a proven contributor to the Braves’ foundation and it looks like Murphy will do the same from 2023.
As mentioned earlier, a large number of additions have helped create a solid foundation for the Atlanta area. In addition, they have signed youngster Vaughn Grissom until 2028 and veterans Kyle Wright and Max baked under control until 2026. Fans of the 2022 Atlanta Braves, a club that won 101 games, should take comfort in the fact that the vast majority of that team’s core – and now their biggest off-season signing – will be around for years to come come.
As predicted by MLB Trade Rumors writer Matt Swartz, Murphy would make $3.5 million from arbitration this season, so he’ll only get a $500,000 raise on that amount for next year. However, the AAV of a contract is taken into account to determine whether or not a player is subject to a luxury tax. With an AAV of just over $12 million, Murphy’s contract will take the Braves above $233 million barrier needed to enter the top tier of the luxury tax, despite RosterResource’s current forecast that the Braves payroll is about $198 million.
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The Braves could try to cut their payroll to avoid that threshold, but the current penalty for overrun is minimal. They have club options (no buyouts) on Charlie Morton, D’Arnaud, Kirby Yates, Colin McHughOrlando Arcia and Eddie Rosario valued just over $50 million to consider next winter, which could easily get them back under the threshold.
Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy was handed a six-year, $73 million deal. There is a $15 million club option with an expiration date of 2029 and no surrender clause. Under the terms of the deal, Murphy will receive $4 million in 2023, $9 million in 2024, and $15 million between 2025 and 2028. The Atlanta Braves Foundation will now receive 1% of her annual salary.
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