The Atlanta Braves shook up their catching ranks this offseason with a big three-team trade whey they landed Sean Murphy from Oakland. While catcher was an area of strength for the team in 2022, Murphy is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He’ll pair with Travis d’Arnaud in what should give the Braves one of the best catching situations in the league.
When the Murphy trade happened, d’Arnaud was one of the first people to connect with Murphy to welcome him to the team, which was something that Murphy clearly appreciated.
“That means a lot. I don’t know if I said this before, but he was one of the first people to reach out after the trade,” Murphy said of d’Arnaud. “I don’t know how he got my number so quick, but the trade was announced and I think he might have been one of the first two people to call me.”
d’Arnaud said that before the trade was announced, he received a call from Alex Anthopuolos just to give him a heads up about what was happening and the plan for 2023.
“It showed me that he respects me and how I think and my thought process,” d’Arnaud said of his call with Anthopoulos. “[He] wanted to make sure that we were on the same page before it all got released, which is something that you hope for in every GM, or every owner, even. For me to get that was special. I didn’t expect it and I felt very thankful and grateful that he let me know before everybody else found out.”
The Braves sent a number of prospects, including Kyle Muller and Freddy Tarnok, to Oakland in the deal. Catcher William Contreras went to Milwaukee. d’Arnaud thinks that the move can be a good opportunity for Contreras, and that Murphy can be an even better player after with working with the team’s coaching staff.
“For Willy, I think for him it gives him an opportunity to play every day behind the plate for a championship-caliber team,” d’Arnaud said of Contreras. So for him, I think it was a great move and he gets to play against his brother all the time, which I can only fathom. I wish I was able to do that with my brother. But Murphy, I know we got a Gold Glove catcher. I heard he’s a tremendous person, and that’s what I’ve observed. I think he’s going to get better as well. Working with Sal and Eddie and Adam and all the guys, I see him becoming even better than what he is and continuing to grow. He’s going to surprise a lot of us with how good of a player he is.”
Murphy said that conversations with catching coach Sal Fasano began soon after the trade was made. He understands the amount of work that he has ahead of him, not only with getting up to speed on opponents, but doing so while also having to learn how to handle an entirely new pitching staff.
“We had a Zoom call and we got together and we just talked a little bit about game planning and what I like to use, what they use and we went over some of the systems we’re going to have,” Murphy said. “We’re just a big bunch of guys with different bits of information and we all have to combine that and use those to make our scouting reports. Again, I’ve seen more guys from the West, they got all these guys from the East. So, I’m going to be relying on them and their past knowledge from the NL East to get through those lineups. Especially at the beginning. It’s a shared knowledge that we have.”
“Sal, we talked a little bit last night. We have similar outlooks on a lot of things. We’re excited to work together. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this catching room. All the guys, Stephen [Vogt] and Shea [Langeliers] gave me glowing reviews about all the guys over here so I can’t wait to do work.”
Murphy added that he has begun looking at video on the Braves’ pitching staff, but said that he really needs to catch them in some bullpens to feel truly comfortable.
“Yeah I’ve taken a peek at a lot of the guys just to get a little feel for them so when we start Spring Training, I have an idea of what their arsenal is,” Murphy said. “It’s hard to see what a guy’s [stuff is], what the shape of a pitch is from a TV clip. So the best thing for me will be catching them in bullpens and just get[ting] a feel for their stuff.”
“This is my first Florida Spring Training. First with a new team. I have a whole new pitching staff. So there’s going to be a lot more work this year than there has been in years past because when you show up for Spring Training with the team you’ve been with, you know most of those guys. So you just have to worry about the few guys they’ve added and you go catch those guys and figure out what they’re about. Now I got 20 guys I gotta learn and that’s going to be a lot of work.”
Murphy was a workhorse for Oakland in 2022, appearing in 148 games, including 116 behind the plate. While he admitted he wanted to play as much as possible during his introductory media session, pairing with d’Arnaud should help keep both fresh for the full season. d’Arnaud was behind the plate for 99 games last season and both should see some time at DH throughout the year.
“I think we’re going to split time, or it kind of depends who we’re playing,” d’Arnaud said. “I know both of us will DH as well. Regardless of who is DHing or catching, I know both of us just want to win and bring another title back here.”
“I would say it’s very beneficial,” d’Arnaud added when asked about the benefits of having two quality catchers. “There’s an old saying, two heads are better than one. Especially when one of them is a Gold Glover. It’s special. It’s going to be big, especially in September and October. Both of us will feel fresh, which will help us not only behind the plate, but at the plate, I believe.”
Matt Olson described Murphy as something of an old soul, when asked if he had any stories to tell about his former teammate in Oakland. Murphy agreed with that description of himself. He was given a lot of responsibility with the Athletics early on in his career and that is something the thinks will pay off for him now that he is with the Braves.
“Yeah, that’s exactly how I would describe myself,” Murphy said of Olson. “Some people say I’m an old soul or whatever, but I agree with that. I have old man tendencies. I do like my crossword and my coffee in the morning. I take that as a compliment, no matter what he says.”
“I feel like I had a lot of responsibility in Oakland. I was allowed to run a lot of pitchers’ meetings and the pre-series meetings. I thank those guys over there for handing me responsibility and putting me in those uncomfortable spots.”
Murphy is stepping into a situation with a team that has a lot of lofty expectations. He hasn’t shied away from the moment, though, and quickly agreed to a six-year extension shortly after the trade to join a growing list of young Braves players that are locked up long-term. He is ready for the challenge even if he knows he has a lot of work ahead of him.