On MLBTR’s recent list of commerce candidates, the highest identify was a catcher, Willson Contreras. There are many causes to anticipate he might be moved within the coming weeks, as he’s an impending free agent who’s taking part in effectively for a nasty group. There’s all the time the possibility of the Cubs understanding an extension to maintain him, however based mostly on the best way Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo had been all dealt final 12 months, it appears affordable to anticipate that Contreras is following them out of city.
MLBTR’s Steve Adams lately took a have a look at the potential matches, discovering the Astros, Mets, Rays and Giants because the most certainly, although itemizing loads of different groups that make sense to a point. Solely considered one of them will get Contreras, nonetheless, leaving these different groups with points behind the plate and having to think about different choices. The one different catcher to crack MLBTR’s record was down at #41: Sean Murphy of the Athletics.
Although Contreras and Murphy are each catchers, there are various methods through which their conditions are completely different. Whereas Contreras is a rental and incomes a $9.625MM wage this 12 months, Murphy has but to succeed in arbitration and nonetheless has three years of low cost management remaining. Contreras can be thought-about a bat-first catcher whereas Murphy has typically earned extra reward for the defensive facet of his sport.
There are many causes for the A’s to carry onto Murphy, which is why he was a lot decrease on the MLBTR rankings than Contreras. Although the A’s have traded away many core gamers previously 12 months, these had been guys who had come near free company and made themselves costlier by way of arbitration. Murphy remains to be low cost and controllable, to not point out proficient. He picked up a Gold Glove award final 12 months for his wonderful protection and was thought-about the third greatest catcher within the majors by the Fielding Bible Awards voting, behind Jacob Stallings and Austin Hedges. He’s additionally no slouch on the plate, with a profession batting line of .229/.316/.423. That quantities to a wRC+ of 108, or 8% above league common. This 12 months, his line is a smidge under that tempo, coming in at .241/.308/.409, however that’s nonetheless a wRC+ of 106. His stroll fee is a bit under his earlier ranges, however he’s additionally placing out much less. That above-average batting line, when mixed together with his wonderful protection, has allowed him to supply 2.3 wins above alternative on the 12 months already, in keeping with FanGraphs.
So, why even contemplate buying and selling him then? For one factor, they may certainly ask for a haul in return, given all these aforementioned attributes. There’s additionally the place of the group, who’re at the moment 32-61, the worst file within the American League and forward of solely the Nationals amongst all groups within the majors. They’re definitely not aggressive now and it’s laborious to think about them fully remaking themselves quick sufficient to instantly change into opponents once more in 2023. Even when they really feel 2024 is reasonable, Murphy might be in his penultimate 12 months of management by then, the identical scenario that gamers like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman had been in after they had been traded this offseason.
There’s additionally one other issue to think about, which is that the A’s have the most effective catching prospects in baseball knocking on the door of the massive leagues. Acquired within the Olson commerce, Shea Langeliers is taken into account the #83 prospect within the sport by Baseball America, #52 by FanGraphs, #81 by ESPN, #80 by The Athletic and #31 by MLB Pipeline. Like Murphy, he’s thought-about a glove-first catcher, however nonetheless hits at an above-average fee. This 12 months, in 74 Triple-A video games, he’s hit 16 residence runs, stolen 5 bases and walked in 11.8% of his plate appearances. His batting line of .272/.364/.505 quantities to a 115 wRC+, or 15% above league common. He lately represented the American League within the 2022 Futures Sport, incomes MVP honors after hitting a house run and throwing out an tried base stealer.
Langeliers is now 24 years outdated, turning 25 within the offseason. If the A’s had been capable of finding a proposal on Murphy that they favored, they may pull the set off on a deal and let Langeliers have the ultimate two months of the season to get acquainted with the massive league pitching employees and life within the large leagues typically, going into the offseason with the torch already handed. The A’s reportedly thought-about dealing Murphy this previous offseason, and that was earlier than Langeliers had been acquired.
The membership’s catching depth doesn’t cease there, as additionally they have Tyler Soderstrom within the system. He additionally exhibits up on all 5 of these aforementioned prospect lists, forward of Langeliers in every case. Nevertheless, there are some query marks there, as he’s nonetheless simply 20 years outdated, taking part in in Excessive-A and predicted to maneuver out from behind the plate down the road. (He’s performed extra first base than catcher this 12 months.)
For a group wanting so as to add a catcher, Murphy could be extra interesting than Contreras as a result of his additional management. The Guardians, as an example, have Austin Hedges as their main catcher proper now. He’s an impending free agent and is hitting simply .172/.227/.270 this 12 months. As a group that’s 2 1/2 video games again of the Wild Card, they won’t wish to quit prospects for a rental like Contreras, and may additionally balk at his wage given their low-payroll methods. Buying Murphy, nonetheless, would permit them to improve on Hedges for a postseason push this 12 months but additionally three extra seasons. The Marlins lately acquired Jacob Stallings to be their backstop, although he’s having a horrible 12 months on the plate and is popping 33 this winter. They’re 5 1/2 video games out of the playoffs proper now and would probably not be serious about leases. The Twins lately put Ryan Jeffers on the IL and aren’t anticipating him again for a few months. That leaves them with impending free agent Gary Sanchez as their main catcher. Maybe they’d contemplate a Sanchez-Murphy tandem now that leads right into a Murphy-Jeffers pairing subsequent 12 months. Christian Vazquez is having a pleasant season for the Crimson Sox, however each he and backup Kevin Plawecki are heading into free company in a couple of months. Buying Murphy may spare them worrying about their catching scenario in an offseason after they may additionally lose J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Nathan Eovaldi. They’re additionally simply outdoors the playoffs proper now, two video games again, and would certainly want non-rentals.
Murphy is in a little bit little bit of commerce candidate limbo proper now, as the identical issues that make him interesting to different groups will make the A’s wish to hold onto him. Nevertheless, if some group steps up and locations a placing provide in entrance of them, the presence of Langeliers may permit them to remain robust behind the plate whereas stockpiling expertise for different areas of the roster. Given his three remaining years of management, they don’t must make a commerce between now and the August 2 deadline. They might wait till the offseason and take their time on the lookout for one of the best deal. Nevertheless, there could be different sellers who be part of them at that time, such because the Blue Jays, who must work out their logjam of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Zack Collins and Gabriel Moreno. The emergence of William Contreras offers the Braves a future surplus, as additionally they have Travis d’Arnaud and Manny Pina below contract for subsequent 12 months. (Pina is out for the remainder of this 12 months, that means it’s not a problem now.) Tom Murphy can be carried out for the 12 months however has one season of group management remaining. Possibly the M’s contemplate shifting him within the winter, as Cal Raleigh has taken over and is having a breakout marketing campaign. There’s plenty of uncertainty in that future, however for the subsequent couple of weeks, the A’s have one of the best and maybe solely non-rental catcher obtainable. Though they don’t must make a deal within the coming days, it’s doable that it’s really one of the best time.
Picture courtesy of USA At this time Sports activities.