Braves sign new C Sean Murphy to $73 million, 6-year deal

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves signed newly acquired catcher Sean Murphy to a $73 million, six-year contract, locking up another key player with a long-term deal.

The contract signed Tuesday includes a $15 million club option for 2029 with no buyout that could raise the total value of the agreement to $88 million.

Murphy will make $4 million in 2023, $9 million in 2024 and $15 million each season from 2025 through 2028. He agreed to donate 1% of his annual salary to the Atlanta Braves Foundation.

After the uncertainty of playing with the low-budget Oakland Athletics for the past four seasons, Murphy is looking forward to putting down roots in Atlanta with a team that has won five straight NL East titles and captured the World Series championship in 2021.

“My wife is looking forward to having a spot where she feels comfortable, at least for a while,” Murphy said. “That’s important to us.”

The deal follows a familiar pattern of the Braves agreeing to new contracts with players who are still under club control for an extended period. Over the past year, they reached long-term deals with sluggers Austin Riley and Matt Olson, as well as rookie stars Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider.

Atlanta previously signed outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and second baseman Ozzie Albies to similar pacts, ensuring that seven core players are under contract for at least three more seasons — and often much longer — with club options that could extend the deals even more.

“It’s an honor to be included in that mix,” Murphy said. “Going forward, I can’t see this team being anything but great over the next several years.”

The 28-year-old Murphy was acquired from the Athletics shortly after the winter meetings in a three-team deal that also included the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Braves sent All-Star catcher William Contreras and minor league pitcher Justin Yeager to the Brewers, while backup catcher Manny Piña and pitching prospects Kyle Muller, Freddy Tarnok and Royber Salinas went to Oakland.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos acknowledged paying a heavy price but said it was worth the cost to acquire one of the game’s top catchers.

Murphy was heading into his first year of arbitration and wouldn’t have been eligible for free agency until 2026.

But the Braves, as they’ve done with so many of their top players, wanted to secure him for even longer.

Anthopoulos, a native of Montreal who grew up cheering for the Expos before they moved to Washington, remembers being frustrated at having so many of his favorite players traded away or leaving as free agents.

“I’m sure there’s a little part of me that knows what it’s like to see good young players traded away or they couldn’t keep them,” Anthopoulos said. “So I think there’s a small part of me that feels like from a fan-base standpoint, it’s important that if you’re going to buy a jersey they’re going to be here a while.”

Murphy batted .250 with 18 homers, 66 RBIs and a .759 OPS in 148 games this past season. He is regarded as an elite defender, winning a Gold Glove in 2021.

Murphy is expected to share playing time behind the plate with Travis d’Arnaud, a player with similar offensive and defensive strengths. Those two also are expected to get extensive time at designated hitter, with the idea of keeping them as fresh as possible over the long season.

The acquisition of Murphy has been the biggest offseason move for the Braves, who also added depth in their bullpen with a trade for former All-Star reliever Joe Jiménez.

But for the second year in a row, one of the team’s most popular and productive players left in free agency.

One year after first baseman Freddie Freeman signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, longtime Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson finalized a $177 million, seven-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Even with Swanson leaving, the Braves are expected to be over the $233 luxury tax threshold in 2023. Anthopoulos said it won’t be a significant amount and shouldn’t hinder another trade or signing to fill out the roster.

Vaughn Grissom and Orlando Arcia are the contenders to be Swanson’s replacement unless the Braves make a move to bring in another shortstop before opening day.

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