Braves acquire Oakland catcher Sean Murphy in three-team trade

Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy throws out Houston Astros' Jeremy Pena during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)

Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos comes with a special uniqueness possessed by few in his position. Where and when others zig, he zags. You might think you know what he may do to improve his club at a given point in time, but he always reminds you of something.

You do not. You never had any idea in the first place.

Anthopoulos' latest move is one of the best examples of this.

The Braves' shortstop is a free agent. They could probably use a bigger bat in left field. Perhaps they could benefit from adding another starting pitcher.

Despite having three catchers -- about which he seemed genuinely excited -- Anthopoulos acquired Oakland's Sean Murphy in a three-team trade with the Athletics and Brewers, the team announced Monday. Murphy is a better player than all three of the catchers the Braves had on the roster to begin the offseason, and now he'll work in tandem with Travis d'Arnaud.

Murphy is the only player heading to Atlanta. A group is headed out.

The extent of the Braves' involvement in the wild trade is below:

To Milwaukee, the Braves sent catcher William Contreras and right-hander Justin Yeager, according to ESPN.

The Braves traded left-hander Kyle Muller, right-hander Royber Salinas, right-hander Freddy Tarnok and catcher Manny Piña to Oakland. Muller was Atlanta's No. 1 prospect on MLB Pipeline, while Tarnok (No. 6) and Salinas (No. 18) were also part of the top 20. Piña, a backup along with Contreras, will make $4.5 million.

At the beginning of last week's Winter Meetings in San Diego, Anthopoulos made it sound as if the Braves would not trade one of their catchers. They expected to go into spring training with all three. Anthopoulos even shut down a trade rumor saying the Braves were the frontrunners to land ... Murphy.

But Anthopoulos added one qualifier: The Braves, of course, would explore any way to improve their club -- at any position.

Eight days after uttering those words, he acquired one of baseball's top catchers. Murphy compiled 5.1 Wins Above Replacement last season, according to FanGraphs, which ranked second among catchers. Murphy is a stud on both sides of the chalk.

Murphy, who has a .755 career OPS, launched 18 home runs last season and 17 in 2021. He drove in 66 runs in 2022.

According to Baseball Savant, his pop time to second base -- the time from the moment a pitcher hit his mitt to the moment the fielder is expected to receive his throw at a base on steal or pickoff attempts -- ranked in the 96th percentile in the sport last season. He is also great at framing pitches.

Murphy, who is in his first year of arbitration, won't become a free agent until after the 2025 season. Thus, he'll instantly become a part of the Braves' core as the organization looks to win another World Series.

Entering this offseason, the Braves' roster seemed mostly set. They have players occupying many of the positions on the field.

Dansby Swanson remains a free agent. The Braves might be able to upgrade in left field. They have searched for ways to improve their starting rotation.

Those seemed like priorities.

But catcher?

The Braves had d'Arnaud, Contreras and Piña. Their talent and depth at that spot seemed like a strength.

But all along, Anthopoulos maintained he would remain open-minded to any way he could improve the team.

And because of this mindset, the Braves ended up with one of baseball's best catchers after going into the offseason with three capable backstops.