After a disappointing 81-81 campaign, the White Sox enter the off-season with some clear needs to tend to if they’re to bounce back into contention with their current core of players. Among them, the catcher position, and Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports the team has inquired about the A’s Sean Murphy.
While an inquiry into a player’s availability falls well short of any meaningful momentum towards a deal, it is interesting to consider given the White Sox have the under performing Yasmani Grandal under contract for 2023 at the steep rate of $18.25MM, while Murphy is projected to make $3.5MM in his first season going through arbitration, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Murphy, 28, was drafted in the third round of the 2016 draft by Oakland. While his defensive prowess behind the plate was his big calling, his bat developed to the point where he quickly became one of the A’s top prospects. Since making his debut in 2019, he’s blossomed into one of the best catchers around and 2022 was his best season yet, as Murphy hit 18 home runs, slashed .250/.332/.426 and appeared in 148 games (116 at catcher). He cut back on his strikeouts this year, dropping them from around 25% for much of his career to 20.3% in 2022.
Defensively, Murphy receives strong marks for framing and ranked sixth in all of baseball on Statcast’s Catcher Framing Runs. He also ranked fifth in Pop Time – that is, the amount of time it takes the catcher to receive a pitch and get it to the base he’s throwing it to – and that resulted in him throwing out 19 of 61 potential baserunners.
As mentioned, Murphy is going through arbitration for the first time in 2022 and is expected to make a moderate $3.5MM salary. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 campaign, so any team acquiring him would have him for three years. All told, the price for Murphy would be steep and given the free agent catching market is thin outside of Willson Contreras and Christian Vazquez, the A’s will surely be looking for a big trade haul if they are to move him.
The White Sox could certainly do with Murphy, given Grandal’s struggles this season. The recently-turned 34-year-old hit just .202/.301/.269 across 99 games, with an alarming drop in power the biggest cause for concern. Grandal never hit much for average, but was always an OBP machine who could slug 20-plus homers each year. He hit just five long balls this past season, and saw his HardHit rate drop almost 14% from a year ago.
There’s already been reports that Chicago’s payroll is expected to drop and the team would be more focused on trades than the free agent market. With that in mind, the team could look to shift Grandal and bring in Murphy, freeing up just under $15MM or so of salary. While Grandal had a poor season and has a hefty salary, there is only one year remaining so it’s not unreasonable to think that a team could be interested in acquiring him if the White Sox are willing to kick in a bit of cash or throw in an intriguing prospect too. That’s purely speculation though, and there’s no indication that the team is shopping Grandal.