The rebuilding A’s are getting plenty of interest in catcher Sean Murphy, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes in his latest notes column. A deal isn’t necessarily likely, given the 27-year-old’s three remaining seasons of club control beyond the current campaign, but Oakland does have a pair of highly touted catchers progressing through the minors in Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom. Langeliers, acquired from the Braves in the offseason Matt Olson trade, is particularly close to the big leagues, having slashed .267/.356/.503 with 17 homers, 14 doubles, a pair of triples and five steals (in five tries) through 77 Triple-A games this season.
Because of that remaining club control, Murphy would make sense for contenders and non-contenders alike (as recently explored by MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald). Postseason hopefuls like the Mets, Rays and Guardians (among others) have received poor production from their backstops this season and, speculatively speaking, would be candidates to improve behind the plate. At the same time, current non-contenders with holes or underwhelming production behind the plate could look to Murphy as a potential key contributor for 2023 and beyond. For instance, the Marlins’ efforts to land their catcher of the future have yet to bear fruit, as Jacob Stallings has struggled mightily in his first season with the Fish. Over in Colorado, the three-year extension given to Elias Diaz looks like a misstep, given his .237/.294/.378 batting line and deteriorated defensive ratings.
Murphy is only arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, so his payroll shouldn’t be much of a consideration for any team looking to acquire him. His exact salary won’t be known until the offseason, but Murphy’s pre-arbitration resume won’t be as decorated as that of fellow trade candidate Willson Contreras, who earned $4.5MM in his first trip through the process. In terms of counting stats, Murphy currently compares favorably to Mitch Garver’s pre-arb platform — Garver earned $1.875MM — but he still has the remainder of the season to add to those totals. Murphy’s 2021 Gold Glove Award will deservedly work in his favor, likely pushing him a ways past that Garver point, but generally speaking, he’s not going to break the bank in terms of salary just yet.
While few teams are going to dramatically alter their valuation based on a couple weeks of playing time, a well-timed hot streak like the one Murphy is currently enjoying can’t hurt the A’s and could give them a slight bit more leverage when negotiating secondary pieces in a potential trade. Murphy has been on fire in July, hitting .333/.395/.515 with a pair of homers and six doubles in 72 trips to the plate. Dating back to June 1, he’s at .291/.354/.454. It’s an arbitrary cutoff, but Murphy’s strong summer reminds that he’s one of the more well-rounded catchers in the game.
Defensively, Murphy is a 2021 Gold Glover who currently boasts a 34% caught-stealing rate and a pair of pickoffs this season. He’s tallied 12 Defensive Runs Saved over the past three seasons, posting perennially strong framing marks along the way. He’s yielded only two passed balls since Opening Day 2021 despite ranking fifth among all Major Leaguers with 1553 innings caught in that time.
It bears repeating that there’s little urgency for Oakland to move Murphy, who’ll be affordable again next season and should command a significant return whether he’s moved in the next week, this offseason, next summer or even in the 2023-24 offseason. At the same time, if a team is prepared to make a substantial offer, there’s little reason for this iteration of the A’s not to consider that offer. The Athletics are extremely unlikely to compete in 2023 after their recent slate of trades (and after the expected trade of Frankie Montas over the next week), and they’re the rare big league team for which catching is a position of organizational strength.