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Sean Murphy traded to Atlanta Braves

A 5-for-1 swap

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

After months of speculation that he would be traded, the Athletics finally pulled the trigger, sending star catcher Sean Murphy to the Atlanta Braves.

It’s a three-way trade, with the Milwaukee Brewers also involved. They’ll be getting catcher William Contreras from Atlanta in this one, along with a couple other pieces.

As for the Athletics, their haul is this:

  • LHP Kyle Muller (Atlanta’s #1 prospect)
  • RHP Freddy Tarnok (Atlanta’s #6 prospect)
  • RHP Royber Salinas (Atlanta’s #18 prospect)
  • Outfielder Esteury Ruiz (Brewers’ #8 prospect)
  • Catcher Manny Piña (veteran)

While there was speculation (hope?) that Oakland could get a haul at least similar to the JT Realmuto trade from a couple years ago, this package is rather underwhelming. Whereas Realmuto was able to bring back a top-25 prospect and a young starting catcher with promise, Oakland doesn’t receive a single player in the top-100 prospect rankings.

The front office seemed to value multiple players instead of one can’t-miss, but you would have expected at least one major prospect of note in exchange for a top-3 catcher in the league. Also of note is that the club wanted MLB-ready or near-ready pieces in exchange, and three of the four prospects have made their MLB debuts. They can say they accomplished their goal on that part, at least.

The trade now opens the door to Shea Langeliers to get a chance at the full-time gig behind the plate for the A’s next year. He’s proven all he needs to in the minors and will be given every opportunity to work through rookie struggles without fear of being demoted (if he has any struggles, fingers crossed he doesn’t).

With the trade, Oakland has finally shipped out the last major remaining piece of their previous playoff roster, following Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas out the door. The only two remaining major players from their 2020 playoff roster are Ramon Laureano and Tony Kemp, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Laureano traded either later this offseason or at the deadline; it feels like only a matter of time.

As for the players Oakland is receiving:

  • Muller is the headliner of the group. The LHP has had a couple brief cups of coffee in the majors over the past couple years, but hasn’t had much success over his first 12 career starts. He has had some control issues throughout his time in the minors but seemed to have corralled those a bit last season. He’s going to have a solid chance to make the Opening Day roster, and generally projects as a mid-rotation arm if he reaches his potential.

Here is some of what has to say about him:

“The 6-foot-7 southpaw now has four pitches in his arsenal. It starts with a fastball that averaged 93.5 mph in Triple-A and the big leagues in 2021, consistently reaching 95-97. It’s a pitch that plays well up in the zone with high spin rates and good carry. He has two distinct breaking pitches and he leaned on his newer power slider more in 2021, a pitch that flashed plus, averaging almost 87 mph and missing a ton of bats. He still threw his low-80s curve and generated swings-and-misses with it, though he threw it for strikes less consistently. His changeup is definitely his fourth offering, one he doesn’t use frequently, but did help him at times when he lost feel for his breaking stuff.”

  • Tarnok also made his big-league debut, making one relief appearance for Atlanta last year. He struggled early on in his career before 2020, and it seems the pandemic helped get him back on track as he came back the next year and showed massive improvement. Again, with the starting rotation wide open right now, a big spring could get him to Oakland sooner rather than later. Here’s a quick scouting report:

“All of his stuff ticked back up in 2021, starting with his fastball which sat 95 mph. He’s long had an effective curve and, like many pitchers in the system, he’s more recently added a slider, with positive results. His average changeup is effective, especially against left-handed hitters.”

  • Salinas is the only one of the players that definitely won’t be breaking camp with the club. The 21-year old righty made it to High-A this past season and could start the year in Double-A, depending on how aggressive the organization wants to be with him. He strikes out a ton of hitters but also gives away too many free passes (where have we heard that before?). He’s much more of a lottery pick than the other players coming back, but if he tamps down on the walks, he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. If he doesn’t, the bullpen may be his ultimate destination. His scouting report:

“The 6-foot-3 right-hander has a power repertoire, starting with a fastball that has touched as high as 98 mph. It pairs nicely with a slider that has the makings of an eventual plus wipeout pitch, a big reason for his huge strikeout rates. He does mix in a slower curve and a changeup, with the former a bit better.”

  • And finally, Ruiz. He has the most MLB experience of the bunch with 17 games played this past year between San Diego and MIlwaukee. He’s got a bit of pop in that right-handed bat of his, but the name of his game is speed as he swiped 85(!) bags last year in the minors. He’s also fixed his strikeout issues that plagued him early in his minor-league career while nearly doubling his walk rate. While he has experience at second base, he’s pretty much moved to the outfield full-time now, and he’s still learning the ins and outs of being on the grass. The front office reportedly views him as a center fielder, and he’ll have a chance to break camp with Oakland come spring, too. Not good for Cristian Pache fans.

For what it’s worth, he was a part of the return package for Josh Hader, as well, so there’s that.

Not to be forgotten in the trade, catcher Manny Piña is now on the club as a direct Murphy replacement. The 35-year-old will serve as Langeliers’ backup and a veteran mentor while making $4.5MM this year ($1MM more than Murphy, for what it’s worth).

So that’s the trade. Sean Murphy for four prospects and a backup catcher. Not exactly what most were hoping for but apparently what Oakland wanted. The A’s now have a ton of young starting pitching options going into next year, with as many as 12 guys vying for one of the four open rotation spots behind Cole Irvin in Spring Training. Some might have a leg up on the others, but that competition will be very interesting to watch.

To make room on the roster for Piña, Oakland also designated infielder Vimael Machin for assignment. The lefty-swinging former Rule 5 pick just couldn’t seem to find his way with the bat in his time in Oakland, even when given everyday reps this past season at third base. While he hasn’t hit in the big leagues, he’s done well in Triple-A and is versatile in the field with two more option years. It would be a mild surprise if he wasn’t claimed on waivers or traded over the next week.

This probably assures that the newly-signed duo of Jace Peterson and Aledmys Diaz will be manning third-base at least to start the year, keeping the position warm for top prospect Zack Gelof. No need to rush him, but expect to see him at some point this summer. A’s fans can’t wait.