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Elephant Rumblings: Braves waste no time, extend Sean Murphy

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MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thursday, Athletics Nation!

How must it be to be a fan of a team that is in it to win it? Pretty nice, I imagine.

You might want to look to the Atlanta Braves to help immerse yourself in this fantasy. They won 101 games in 2022, the whole shebang in 2021, and they have two of my favorite players locked up until at least 2028, per Mark Bowman at MLB in reporting on the six-year, $73 million extension Sean Murphy signed with the Braves on Tuesday.

The contract is worth an average of $12.2 million per year through 2028 for Murph, who was under team control through 2025 and must be happy to be getting paid closer to what he is worth starting 2023. The deal also includes a team option of $15 million for 2029. There is, however, some significant backloading of Murphy’s salary across the contract term.

Clearly, the Braves have adopted a truly novel economic model: instead of underpaying young stars in their prime and then overpaying them as free agents based on past performance, the Braves are keen to pay young stars closer to what they are worth today and what they are likely to be worth in the future.

Murphy is just the latest of young stars to commit long term to playing in Atlanta: recall that the Braves locked up another A’s fan favorite, Matt Olson, last year for $168 million over eight years, again with a year-nine club option that will give the Braves some flexibility depending on how well Olson holds up through his mid-30s.

Murphy and Olson are just two examples of the Braves’ acquire-and-extend strategy. This franchise is looking to compete every year for the foreseeable future:

Of course, the A’s don’t follow either of the aforementioned economic strategies. Rather, they generally just squeeze what they can out of young players under team control and then flip them at what seems the most opportune moment. It’s been nearly 20 years since the A’s invested long term in a star, when they signed Eric Chavez to a six-year, $66 million deal in 2004.

John Shea tweets above that the Braves’ deals with Murph and Oly are “good for them, bad for A’s fans and baseball.” Well, John, you got two out of three there—my gut feeling is that teams paying players based more on current and realistically expected performance is good for baseball, versus the status quo, at least.

But no doubt, it sucks for A’s fans. Good luck in Atlanta, Sean Murphy! You are dearly missed.

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