“Good!” exclaimed many an A’s fan, upon hearing the rumor that Oakland was asking St. Louis for prospects Lars Nootbar (OF), Gordon Graceffo (SP), and rookie of the year finalist Brendan Donovan (3 in voting, 4.1 WAR) if the Cardinals wanted to win the Sean Murphy sweepstakes.
A’s fans may be weary of trades in which the returns feel too reliant on the return of injured pitchers (Gunnar Hoglund), defensive wizards with a history of not hitting (Cristian Pache), and older breakout candidates (Kevin Smith).
“Make them overpay for a change! And put the league on notice that the asking price is sky high!” Which the reported asking price for Murphy to the Cardinals was — Baseball Trade Values estimates the A’s were seeking 85.7 in value for their 51.3 stud catcher.
So how has it played out thus far? Predictably the Cardinals said no thanks. We don’t know if St. Louis suggested a counter-offer (BTV thinks Donovan or Nootbar, along with Graceffo, would make for a fair swap) or whether talks simply halted once Oakland’s asking price was put forth.
What we do know is the Cardinals pivoted to signing the best free agent catcher on the market, Willson Contreras, committing 5 years and $87.5M to the 30 year old backstop. Suddenly the Cardinals, perceived as having some of the better matches for a trade with Oakland, was off the board. One less catcher out there, but also one less trade partner.
You also wonder how the leaked asking price will be received by Murphy’s other suitors, believed to be potentially the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Guardians, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, or any of the dark horses, some of whom are various colored socks.
If the asking price to a competitor is deemed to be “the moon,” do you continue to engage in talks or do you simply step back and wait for the price to come down to earth? Do the A’s look strong, like a team holding all the cards with 5 suitors scrambling to secure a single good chair, or do they look foolish and unaware that there are some other decent chairs in the back plus ample standing room?
How will it look if the A’s have to lower their asking price substantially and it begins to look as it did last winter, when Oakland dangled several desirable players but did so to a league that knew the A’s had to make deals while those players still had some value?
You have to like that the A’s are presenting Murphy as blue chip player in a market in which many more teams need good catchers than have one. And if the free agent signings so far have told us anything, it’s that teams will bid against one other with someone shelling out way too much in order to get what they want now.
What you wonder is whether Oakland is setting the bar high with room to budge, or whether they are setting the bar so “sky high” that conversations are going nowhere and Oakland is losing leverage as days pass and teams pivot.
To determine this we would have to know, first of all, whether the leaked trade proposal is entirely accurate and then also what proposals might have been on the table to other clubs. Similarly precocious or more measured?
There is a school of thought around shooting for the moon in negotiations that goes, “Hey, give it a try — there’s no harm in asking.” I guess my question would be, “Is that really so?” We may be about to find out...