Braves Extend Sean Murphy’s Contract By Six Years

Catcher Sean Murphy was given a six-year, $73 million contract extension by the Braves today. There is a club option in the amount of $15 million with a maturity date of 2029 and no buyout provision in the agreement. Murphy will get $4 million in 2023, $9 million in 2024, and $15 million between 2025 and 2028 as part of the agreement. Additionally, he will give one percent of his income to the Atlanta Braves Foundation.

The Rowley Sports Management client was the star in a three-team deal involving the Braves, Brewers, and Athletics earlier this month. This contract buys out the last three years of club control and the possible four free-agency years for Murphy, who became eligible for arbitration in his first year in 2023.

This latest deal adds Murphy to the growing list of current Braves who have signed long-term contracts while still under club control (see also: Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Spencer Strider, and Michael Harris). Now, Atlanta has control of that group of players until 2027, with just Acuna Jr. and Albies’ contracts expiring before 2029.

Murphy, at 28 years old, has become one of the finest catchers in baseball during his time with the Oakland Athletics. Over the course of four MLB seasons, he has hit 46 home runs and has a.236/.326/.429 batting line. That’s good for a 116 wRC+, which means he’s been hitting at a 16 percent higher level than the typical batter in his league. In 2022, he improved at the plate as well, producing a.250/.332/.426 slash line over 612 at-bats and a career-low strikeout rate of around 5%.

Since the year 2020, he has been in the top ten in the league with 12 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). According to Fangraphs’ framing measure, he was also the third-best pitcher framer within that time frame. Overall, his career total of 10.6 fWAR is the result of his great defense and above-average offense, with 2022 accounting for 5.1 of that total.

Braves Extend Sean Murphy's Contract By Six Years
Braves Extend Sean Murphy’s Contract By Six Years

Murphy was one of the most talked about trade commodities in baseball this offseason because of his strong play, Oakland’s reconstruction, and the dearth of catching free agents. Certainly, he had been linked to as many as nine other clubs in the weeks preceding his December 12 transfer. The Braves transferred Royber Salinas, Manny Pina, Kyle Muller, and Freddy Tarnok to the Athletics, while the Brewers received William Contreras and Justin Yeager in a classic blockbuster deal.

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Given that the Braves already had a solid catching combination in Travis D’Arnaud, Ronald Pina, and Willson Contreras signed on for the future, the match with Atlanta wasn’t always the most apparent fit on paper. However, general manager Alex Anthopolous saw a chance to improve the team as a whole by trading away Pina and Contreras in order to create a place for Murphy.

It’s now the second-successive winter that Atlanta has traded for one of Oakland’s players and quickly extended him. They bought out Olson’s contract in the offseason and immediately extended it by eight years and $168 million. Olson is a proven contributor to the Braves’ foundation, and it seems like Murphy will do the same beginning in 2023.

As was said before, a large number of additions have helped form a solid foundation for the Atlanta area. In addition, they have youngster Vaughn Grissom signed until 2028 and veterans Kyle Wright and Max Fried under control through 2026. Fans of the 2022 Atlanta Braves, a club that won 101 games, should take comfort in the fact that the vast majority of that team’s core — and, now, their largest off-season acquisition — will be around for years to come.

As predicted by MLB Trade Rumors writer Matt Swartz, Murphy was set to make $3.5MM in arbitration this season, thus he will only get a $500K increase on that amount for next year. However, the AAV of a contract is taken into consideration when determining whether or not a player would be subject to a luxury tax. With an AAV of just over $12 million, Murphy’s contract will put the Braves over the $233 million barrier necessary to enter the top tier of the luxury tax, despite RosterResource’s current projection that the Braves’ payroll stands at roughly $198 million.

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The Braves might try to reduce their payroll to avoid that threshold, but the current penalty for going over is minimal. They will have club options (no buyouts) on Charlie Morton, D’Arnaud, Kirby Yates, Collin McHugh, Orlando Arcia, and Eddie Rosario valued a little over $50 million to consider next winter, which could easily get them back under the threshold.

Last Lines

Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy was been awarded a six-year, $73 million agreement. There is a $15 million club option with a maturity date of 2029 and no buyout provision. Consistent with the terms of the deal, Murphy will get $4 million in 2023, $9 million in 2024, and $15 million between 2025 and 2028. The Atlanta Braves Foundation will get 1% of its annual salary from here on.

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