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Alex Anthopoulos discusses Sean Murphy extension, luxury tax

Atlanta locked up another young piece Tuesday night with a six-year extension for catcher Sean Murphy.

MLB: General Manager’s Meetings Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves locked up another big piece of its young core Tuesday night when they agreed to a six-year, $73 million deal with catcher Sean Murphy. The deal also includes a $15 million club option for a seventh season that would make the deal worth $88 million. While the Braves have seen notable players walk away in free agency during back-to-back seasons, Alex Anthopoulos is working to ensure that doesn’t become a common occurrence.

“I told Sean this last night, I was excited that he was willing to stay,” Alex Anthopoulos said over a Zoom call Wednesday morning to officially announce the extension. “When we got him, I called him to welcome him and told him hopefully he’s here for a long time. We were happy having him for three years if that was what the deal was going to be, but if it made sense to do something long term, we were going to look to do that. So, we reached out about doing it and really I’d say, the last 48 hours, it got momentum and we really locked in and were able to get something done late last night.”

This has become a common over the last year for Atlanta. The Braves acquired Matt Olson last March and quickly locked him up to a longterm deal. They also locked up Austin Riley, Spencer Strider and Michael Harris in season. Six of Atlanta’s eight projected position players are locked up through at least 2027.

“Look, there’s risk to this, right? You can look at our own team. We’ve had elite young players get hurt at the same time,” Anthopoulos answered when asked about the thinking behind locking up so many young players. “Mike Soroka, was right there in the Cy Young conversation, unfortunate thing that happened to him. Obviously, Acuna. Just a dynamic, young, exciting superstar player. Guys have down years. There’s risk to this, there’s no doubt about it when you lock yourself into this. I think, that’s the trade off. I mean, you’re guaranteeing, you’re committing. We do like the fact that guys can just worry about going out and playing. They don’t have to worry about making a certain salary, certain statistics and so on. They know that they’re going to be here.

While other teams in the NL East have made significant splashes with high priced additions, the Braves have been focused on themselves and maintaining a young and competitive core for year’s to come. Acquiring Murphy was certainly a big move and cost the team notable prospects, but identifying him as someone that can help them win now and longterm is the type of gamble they are willing to make.

“All these guys staying, ensures hopefully that we stay competitive, assuming they stay healthy, and they continue to perform,” Anthopoulos added. “That’s not always a given. As much as these guys are talented, and they’re great people, and they work hard. No one plans on having a bad year, no one plans on getting hurt, but it happens. You’re dealing with human beings. It’s a model that we’ve employed. I think it’s important for us, for the parameters that we have for the market we have for what we have to work with. It doesn’t mean that if I was a general manager in some other city I would feel the same way, but I do believe everything you do should be team specific. In my view of the way things are set up, this is what works for the Braves.”

Like Olson, Murphy is locked up now for at least the next six seasons and hasn’t stepped onto the field yet in an Atlanta uniform. When asked about committing to a longterm deal, he said that the team and coaching staff had gone out of their way to make him feel comfortable.

“A bunch of things. I immediately felt comfortable by the staff in Atlanta,” Murphy said on the decision to commit longterm. “It was reassuring. The conversations we had with people that this is a good place to commit to. I had glowing reviews from former teammates and everyone has good things to say about it. I felt comfortable jumping into all these negotiations with Alex and trying to get something done.”

“It feels unique. You look at those listed players and you like everything about it,” Murphy added on joining the growing list of players that the Braves have locked up. “Those guys are awesome. It’s an honor to be included in that mix of those guys. Going forward, I can’t imagine this team being anything but great for the next several years.”

On the Luxury Tax

With Murphy’s deal, Roster Resource at FanGraphs has the Braves’ competitive balance tax payroll at just over $238 million which is slightly above the first threshold. Anthopuolos said earlier this offseason that the team was willing to go into the tax and they now have. He said Wednesday that being in the tax wouldn’t prevent them from making another deal.

“Obviously, the tax is a factor just in terms of the dollars. From a cash standpoint with everything that we’ve done and these trades and so on, we’re kind of in the same place,” Anthopoulos said. “Even when you factor in, we’re over the tax, we’re gonna pay 20% on the overage. But again, it’s 20% on the overage, it’s not a significant amount currently. We were never really focused on the tax specifically. I have a payroll amount cash wise that I work with. That’s where I’d say 99% of my time is spent. If we go over the tax, that means we’re spending a million dollars of tax or $1.5 million in tax or $2 million in tax. I’ll just include that in my math of my of my payroll going forward. So I know, it’s a big thing maybe from media standpoint, but from our standpoint, we pay attention to everything, but I’d say that the dollars going out the door in the current year is what I pay attention to. I just have to bake that in. So, we were always prepared to do it in the right deal. This was certainly the right deal and if the right deal presents itself again in the next week or month, we’ll be open to doing it again.”

Any more moves to come?

Obviously Anthopoulos wasn’t going to tip his hand on what the rest of the offseason might have in store. He did say that the front office is continuing to explore things and that will continue into Spring Training.

“We continue to explore things. As long as guys are still out there. Whether that’s free agency, whether that’s guys still availabe in trade, there’s DFA’s, things like that. You’re never going to hear me say we’re done,” Anthopoulos said. “Even when you get to spring training, unless all the players are off the board, you stay open minded on all these things. I wouldn’t anticipate anything big, but again, we’ll continue to keep the lines of communication open. There’s still a lot of time before we get started in camp.”

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