The Athletic grades the Braves trade for Sean Murphy

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The Braves moved silently in free agency, spending less than $5 million on free agents, but they did once again make the blockbuster trade of the offseason, landing Sean Murphy from Oakland. He’s one of the best catchers in the game and subsequently signed a team-friendly six-year extension with the Braves, which I like to call the Alex Anthopoulos special.

Jim Bowden recently ranked the top 10 trades of the offseason, giving a grade for each deal, and the Braves landed at #1 on the list, receiving an A for their trade.

The Braves deserve credit for landing the best player in this nine-player, three-team trade, and doing so at a reasonable price. Murphy, the 2022 American League Gold Glove Award winner, is one of the top five overall catchers in the sport, and Atlanta signed him to a six-year, $73 million contract extension after the trade. Last year was his best offensive season as he slashed .250/.332/.426 with 37 doubles and 18 home runs. The Brewers made out well as they added Contreras, a middle-of-the-order bat who was the starting DH for the National League All-Star team last year. Contreras is a below-average catcher but he can hit, with 20 to 30 home run power (per season), and he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2025. Meanwhile, the A’s acquired more quantity than quality…

There’s no question the Braves landed the best player in this deal. Long-term, perhaps I warm up to the Murphy trade, but right now, I’m not sold this was the wisest use of the Braves assets this offseason.

While Contreras isn’t a great defensive catcher, he’s elite offensively for the position and a fantastic option as a DH — far better than Murphy or Travis d’Arnaud. So when looking at the designated hitter spot next year, the Braves downgraded for a slight upgrade at catcher. Overall, I think this trade was a wash in terms of how it affects the team next season, and it prevented the Braves from upgrading their situation in left field.

However, a trade like this can’t only be looked at for how it affects the club this upcoming season. Murphy will likely be a significant upgrade over Contreras over the long term, and d’Arnaud is nearing the end of his career, so I understand why others are high on this deal for the Braves.

I’m still a little hesitant, which I talked about when I gave this trade a C-.

I think Murphy will fit in well with his new team, but I’m not in love with this move because catcher was already a strength of this team. Only one of Murphy and TDA can be behind the plate at the same time, and neither are world beaters offensively. Sure, the other could fill in as a DH, but I would argue Contreras is better suited than both of them as a designated hitter. The Braves improved, but they currently have two black holes on their roster at shortstop and left field. Making a trade to fill one of those would have made a lot more sense, and it probably wouldn’t have cost as much talent as they just shipped to Oakland and Milwaukee.

However, that piece was written prior to the Braves inking an extension with Sean Murphy. Now that we know that, I’m slightly more fond of the trade, but I’m nowhere close to as high on it as Bowden. I would probably give the Murphy trade a B as of today; I still think the Braves could have found a better way to upgrade the roster now and in the future.

Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

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