I was going to post a photo of our beautiful “Big Boy Home Runs” banner, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Sean Murphy has been added to the depressingly long list of quality Major Leaguers that have left the Oakland A’s over the past 12 months. The Gold Glove catcher has joined Atlanta in a three-way trade that also includes the Milwaukee Brewers.
As with all of the other departures, there’s a slight sense of happiness for the player that they have been moved to a good new home, one that will probably reward him with a contract extension in short order.
We might as well be happy for someone else, as it’s hard to be happy for ourselves right now.
The emotionless logic for trading Murphy worked on three factors:
- It’s Shea Langeliers’ time to become a regular starter.
- Murphy was unlikely to sign a contract extension – even if one was offered – to keep him with the team for when we expect to be competitive again.
- He is a valuable commodity, with multiple suitors, and would produce a very attractive return to add to our rebuilding effort.
The St. Louis Cardinals were one of many such suitors. They ultimately decided to sign Willson Conteras as a free agent instead and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch had this to say about the A’s negotiating position:
One of several teams chasing Murphy, the Cardinals found the Athletics’ asking price steep. One executive referred to it as “high — like the moon.”Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch
If we had got “the moon” in return then the blow of losing one of our few remaining good players would have been softened. Unfortunately, the initial reactions from prospect writers suggest the return has fallen somewhat short of the moon.
In fact, quite a long way short.
What Did We Get?
As Stockton Ports broadcaster Alex Jensen sensibly reminds us, it will take a couple of years before we can really assess the value of the prospects that we have acquired. Amid the bashing of David Forst and the rest of the A’s Front Office right now on Twitter, I’m sure you won’t find a single A’s fan who doesn’t hope that the negative reactions are proved incorrect in time.
And what else do we have right now but time? Well, let’s take a quick look.
A catcher for now: Veteran catcher Manny Piña comes across from the Braves. With Sean Murphy heading out, we had to acquire another catcher from somewhere as there are no MLB-ready choices in our Minor League system to join Shea Langeliers on the roster. It made sense for that to be a defense-first veteran back-up and that describes Piña perfectly.
He doesn’t add much at all with the bat – insert your own “well, he’ll fit in with the A’s” joke here – but he has consistently been rated as a good defensive catcher during his time with the Brewers and then last year with the Braves. He should be a help to the pitching staff and also can be someone Shea can learn from too, which shouldn’t be underestimated as part of his development.
One speedy outfielder: The reports on Esteury Ruiz state that he’s a very quick runner, and can knock one out of the park every once in a while, but he’ll need to out-perform the projections if he is going to hit enough to be a regular presence in the line up. It’s the second move in less than five months for Ruiz as he was acquired by the Brewers from the Padres on August 1st as part of the package that saw Josh Hader head to San Diego.
Three pitchers from the Braves: Left-hander Kyle Muller is the pick of the bunch as he was generally rated the Braves’ top prospect, albeit in a farm system that has been depleted over the past year by promotions to the Majors and other trades. He’s very likely to stick as a Big League starting pitcher, and made his MLB debut this past season, although probably at the back of the rotation.
Right-hander Freddy Tarnok is someone that the Braves seemed to like more than some of the prospect writers, so he’s potentially the player who could make this deal look a lot better in a few years’ time. He has a good assortment of pitches, including a 95-MPH fastball, and like Muller he made his MLB debut in 2022.
Finally, right-hander Royber Salinas is more of a project as he was pitching in Single-A in 2022. There’s plenty of variance in how prospect writers assess his potential and whether he will transition to a reliever role as he gets closer to the Majors, but again there is at least a decent chance that he will contribute in the Big Leagues at some point.
It’s the development of the three pitchers from Atlanta that will determine how we look back at this trade in future. For every Dan Haren there’s a Dan Meyer. We can only hope that this time the pitching return from Atlanta works out better than those fateful few days in December 2004 when Mark Mulder was traded to the Cardinals and Tim Hudson to the Braves.
As for right now, we’ve traded away by far our best player from a team that lost 102 games.
We don’t yet know if the future will be bright; we do know it looks quite a long way away. Almost as far away as the moon.