Braves Extend Sean Murphy and Wade into the Luxury Tax Waters

The Atlanta Braves today signed C Sean Murphy to a six-year contract worth $73 million that runs through the 2028 season. The deal includes a $15 million club option with no buyout for 2029 that would give Murphy a seven-year deal worth $88 million. Murphy will make $4 million in 2023, $9 million in 2024 and $15 million in 2025-2028. Murphy agreed to donate 1% of his annual salary to the Atlanta Braves Foundation.  Murphy, 28, appeared in 148 games for the A’s last season, batting .250/.332/.426 with 18 home runs and 66 RBI. He led all American League primary catchers in hits (134), doubles (37), RBI (66), and total bases (229), and ranked second in home runs (18) and runs scored (67). He compiled a career-best 5.1 fWAR on the season, highest for a qualified catcher in the A.L. and trailing just J.T. Realmuto for most in the majors.

It’s the AA way! Sean Murphy became the latest Brave to ink a long-term contract, signing a 6/$73MM extension that includes a club option for $15MM. It’s the latest in a long line of extensions given out by Anthopoulos and, get this, every single one has a club option or even 2!

  1. Ozzie Albies, 2026 and 2027 club options for $7MM
  2. Ronald Acuna Jr. 2027 and 2028 club options for $17MM
  3. Matt Olson, 2030 club option for $20MM
  4. Charlie Morton, 2024 club option for $20MM
  5. Spencer Strider, 2029 club option for $22MM
  6. Michael Harris II, 2031 club option for $15MM and 2032 club option for $20MM
  7. Austin Riley, 2033 club option for $20MM
  8. Travis D’Arnaud, 2024 club option for $8MM
  9. Tyler Matzek, 2025 club option for $5.5MM
  10. Orlando Arcia, 2024 club option for $2MM

And the club options aren’t for extended players only. There’s more:

  1. Eddie Rosario, $9MM club option for 2024
  2. Marcell Ozuna, $16MM club option for 2025
  3. Colin McHugh, $6MM club option for 2024
  4. Kirby Yates, $5.75MM club option for 2024

Either AA is the most extraordinary negotiator in the land, or players just want to play on this team. It’s both. Yes, I answered my own question.

Luxury Tax, Tier 1

Kramer: It’s a write off for them.
Jerry: How is it a write off?
Kramer: They just write it off.
Jerry: Write it off of what?
Kramer: They just write it off!
Jerry: You don’t even know what a write off is, do you?
Kramer: No. Do you?
Jerry: No I don’t!!

Seinfeld

When people started talking to me about the luxury tax in baseball, I just nodded and pretended to know what the hell they were talking about. Now, thanks to my friend, who goes by “BOGGY” (Braves Option Guy on Twitter), I actually DO know what I’m talking about.

After factoring in…

  1. Arb-estimates for Max Fried, A.J. Minter, and Joe Jimenez
  2. Money sent to Texas in the Jake Odorizzi deal,
  3. “Player Benefits” (an estimated $16.5 MM each year)
  4. MILB salaries for 40-man players not on MLB squad
  5. Pre-arb player salaries
  6. Bonuses for Exceptional pre-arb players
  7. AAV of each player under a long-term deal

…the Braves have found their way into tier 1 of the luxury tax…barely, and I hate to let you all down, but it’s not that scary. Tier 1, which is a 20% tax on the overage, starts when teams exceed the $233MM threshold. As of now, the Braves are at about $236MM, which puts their total tier 1 tax at $600K. And, if you can math properly, the max in tax for tier 1 is $4MM, unless…

For sh*ts and giggles, let’s take a look at the Mets. Their payroll is sitting at an astounding $384MM, however, they are a back to back offender and their tax rate for tier 1 is 30%, then 42% for tier 2, then 75% for tier 3, and finally 90% for tier 4, making their total tax overages come to $151MM.

Yes, Cohen invested 1/2 billion into his team, only to finish 2023 looking up. As Guillermo Heredia would say…

NADA HUMBLE. NADA HUMBLE.

BE COCKY. BE COCKY.

ALL THE TIME.

IT’S PLAYOFF.

KEEP GOING. BRAISE.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

51 thoughts on “Braves Extend Sean Murphy and Wade into the Luxury Tax Waters”

  1. This is Bill Edwards Sports Editor Of The Palm Coast Tribune. Boyton Beach Florida. Marcel Ozuna there is club option for Him what happens when he receives the Club option for The Season 2o25 . He Doesn’t deliver like the Atlanta Braves expect? There has been Talk published that he is currently mentioned to be considered on the Trading block He is not performing as he did Before his Suspension for Spoucel abuse . His Offense hitting as has Taken a turn for the worst. Perhaps he should meet With Chipper Jones bring him back to the hitting he displayed 2 years ago. Let’s hope for the team sake he returns to the Marcel Ozuna we all remember.

  2. Hmm, based upon the developing pattern, I’d have to guess Grissom is next if he performs well next year. Fried will walk and Wright is borderline. If Wright stays good, they will try to extend him this season. They’ll keep drafting pitchers until they stumble upon another Strider. LF, DH, bench will continue to be catch-as-catch-can. Maybe two or three bullpenners will be developed and the rest filled-in. The Braves will never pay a long term FA deal to a 30+ player. Ozuna was the last one if four years can be considered long term.

    Even so, the Braves are top 5 payroll – success breeds cost.

  3. I will always trust AA but I am not sure handing a 6-year contract to a 28 years old catcher is a very good idea….but what do I know….

  4. It is fascinating to read the spectrum of comments online about the Murphy extension ranging from “how does AA keep getting it done?” to “I hate the trade and the extension.” This will be interesting to see how it plays out and who ultimately is right.

  5. Catcher aging patterns are weird. It’s an interesting deal. But it’s not all that expensive, really, if you think you’ve got a guy who can receive very well, hit acceptably, and play 120 games a year. Obviously, AA’s crystal ball had better be right about these guys, but for a catcher who was worth five wins this year, committing to pay him $15 million in six years just doesn’t seem that risky.

    The worst-case scenario is that he turns into James McCann, but McCann’s example also presents a reason to do the deal: James McCann is an example of how hard it is to get a catcher in free agency, and how much you may have to overpay. Here, the Braves chose their guy and had no other teams to negotiate against.

    From the outside, this looks like a very nice deal.

  6. I don’t think Murphy is going to be a bust and I don’t think Contreras is going to the Hall of Fame. I just think we traded a 24 year old slugger for a 28 year old whose value is a lot harder to quantify accurately (BRef has Murphy at 3.5 WAR for 2022) to solve a problem that didn’t exist, while simultaneously giving away valuable pieces that might have been used to address the left field problem.

    I think the effect the 2023 rule changes will have on stolen bases is overestimated, and that if Milwaukee gives Contreras the 600 PAs Oakland gave Murphy last year, he’ll hit 30 homers. I just can’t trade a 24 year old like that.

    I’m optimistic about Grissom, but I don’t think anyone thinks he’s going to immediately replace Dansby’s 2022 numbers. We have a top 5 payroll, but are objectively worse at shortstop and designated hitter and still have a big puzzle in left field. It doesn’t seem like a good use of resources.

    Edit: The good thing, as Putter mentioned, is that we will all find out in due time.

  7. It’s difficult to imagine this deal going actively badly… even if Murphy regresses, it’s just not a lot of money in MLB payroll terms. It’s unlikely that five years from now we’ll be looking back and asking what AA was thinking.

    That being said, it’s still fair to wonder if this trade/extension was the best use of resources overall. I don’t think I’ll ever stop brooding over whether Freeman + Langeliers + whatever the rest of the players traded for Olson and Murphy might have been traded for instead would have ultimately left the roster in a better place, but it’s unknowable.

  8. Yeah, this is all well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re worse on paper this coming year than last. When you’re trying to win a World Series, I’d call that at least a little bit of a problem.

  9. The context for Murphy’s hitting numbers are important – the NL hit better than the AL last year, Oakland is a notoriously pitcher friendly park, and the AL west has 3 other places where it’s tough to hit.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Murphy and Contreras hit about the same next year. That being said, still not sure that I like the trade.

  10. Are we actually worse on paper, comparing Opening Day rosters?

    Strider replaces Ian Anderson, a healthy Acuña replaces whoever we started in RF, we get a full season of Harris, we know Kyle Wright is legit, Iglesias replaces Jansen…seems like all that would more than offset the full-season downgrade to Grissom/Arcia.

    The extension is fine, not amazing, not stupid.

  11. I think we are glossing over one thing: the pitch clock. It’s going to be a learning curve for everyone but to have 2 seasoned catchers sure will help.

    Also, watch Sean Murphy become the best catcher in MLB with the implementation of the new rules. Also, Realmuto is about to be 32. IMO, AA made the transaction Coppy wanted to make back in 2017.

    Last point: I can understand being underwhelmed by the trade. It was a lot to give up. However, the extension is an incredible value, even if Murphy only average 3 WAR/year.

  12. I’m just saying, you can’t cherry pick whatever the high-water mark was from last season, roster-wise, and pretend like that was the roster the entire time. The best teams will generally look better after the trade deadline than they will coming into the following Spring Training because you’re comparing the point at which they’re likeliest to be hoarding soon-to-be free agents to the point at which some of those FAs will inevitably have left and may even be replaced by prospects that won’t project well.

    It’s got to be an apples-to-apples comparison. Arguably, we’re better now than we were at this point last year (and on both teams, you get to assume a full season of a healthy Ozzie starting).

    Or you could just say “4th best WAR projection in baseball, and a negligible distance behind the projected leader, what more do you want here?” and leave it at that.

  13. I’m not sure what to think about the Murphy trade and extension, but I’m strongly inclined to give AA the benefit of the doubt.

    But I have no doubts about the brilliance of JonathanF’s post yesterday. Bravissimo!

  14. Travis d’Arnaud is on the back end of his career.
    The Braves clearly did not believe in Contreras as a catcher from a defensive standpoint.
    There are no other MLB caliber catchers in the system.

    Skepticism of the Murphy trade and extension has to acknowledge these facts.

  15. @15 — If you’re taking WAR projections as gospel, that buys you a ticket to a one-game playoff. I feel like the team should be aiming higher considering this is the middle of their window. (It also leans hard into the belief that Grissom is an above-average major league shortstop right now, but we’ve had that argument and there’s no real alternative right now except to hope that it’s the case.)

    My word but do I hate “good enough” as an excuse.

    Also, being better than the 2022 Braves were in April is not an accomplishment that anyone should be bragging about.

  16. I have no problem with the extension and I only have a problem with the trade insofar as it keeps us from making any other moves this offseason. Because if this move is the only major one we make, it’s not enough. Are we still in the playoff hunt and crap shoot and yada yada? Yes. Shrugging your shoulders and settling for that at this point in our window is not sufficient.

  17. I’m with Fun Police and the others. If the Braves don’t start 10 games down, winning the division will be a lot easier. I have an engineer’s belief in the 80/20 rule. If you can get 80% of the value for 20% of the cost, you’re in good shape. It could take 80% of the cost (aka Mets outlay) to get the last 20% of value. The Braves have struck a good balance by having the 4th best projection with the 5th highest cost. I can live with that. Also, I think you have to leave room for someone to surprise you in a good way. AA has always done this and adjusted at the deadline. If we filled all our holes in the offseason last year then we never get the best of Harris, Strider, and Grissom. I know that the projections incorporate some of the upside potential, but the players we lost seem to be at the top of their potential or on the downside (Freeman, Swanson, Jansen) while the players we retained have additional upside. Acuna at full strength, Ozzie’s full year return, a full year of Harris and Strider, Olson improves, Ozuna/Rosario mount comebacks, Soroka/Anderson mount comebacks. So much upside potential. Even after trading a bunch of pitchers, we have Elder/Shuster and a bunch of high upside young guys (Ritchie, Murphy, Smith-Shawver, Vines, Burkhalter, etc….).

    Also, if the Braves continue to draft well and dive back into the international market, the farm will improve anyway.

  18. @17 – All of these things are true, and it can still also be true that we gave up too much for too little, while neglecting bigger problems. The good news for the Braves is that AA is a World Series champion GM and I am an internet rando.

  19. I’ve come around on the trade for reasons that SDP listed. Also, I think that Acuña being back at 100% (which he never was close to last season) is going to crush the league.

  20. I get that Murphy is hard to quantify, and I get that people may not think pitch framing is as valuable as Fangraphs thinks it is. But they’re not completely wrong, and I’m probably more on the Fangraphs side of catcher WAR than B-Ref. So what if we split the difference? FG is at 5.1; B-Ref is 3.5. Is he a 4 WAR player, slightly favoring B-Ref’s valuation?

    So evening assuming a less-than-gradual decline, this deal is still a steal for Atlanta. 1 WAR is now costing you $10M per thereabouts, and it’s only going up. This might be Murphy’s breakdown:

    age 28 (2023): 4 WAR
    age 29 (2024): 3.7 WAR
    age 30 (2025): 3.5 WAR
    age 31 (2026): 3 WAR
    age 32 (2027): 2.5 WAR
    age 33 (2028): 2 WAR

    That’s 18.7 WAR, and I feel like I’m being pretty conservative. That’s basically saying he’s not going to have much a true peak at all, and his greatest skill is not as valuable as people much smarter than I think it is. But if $10M is what 1 WAR costs, then that’s $187M in value that we just signed for $73M. It’s really hard for me to see how he’s not going to be worth A LOT of excess value.

  21. @8: “I’m optimistic about Grissom, but I don’t think anyone thinks he’s going to immediately replace Dansby’s 2022 numbers.”

    I agree, and I think the real question is whether Dansby is going to replace Dansby’s 2022 numbers.

    Also: thanks, tfloyd, but Rusty’s Boomhauer impersonation yesterday made me laugh.

  22. Are we still in the playoff hunt and crap shoot and yada yada? Yes. Shrugging your shoulders and settling for that at this point in our window is not sufficient.

    After everything we’ve been through the past two seasons, either you get that the playoffs are a crapshoot no matter how much we spend and you’ve just got to get in and hope you’re the hot team…or you’ll never get it. The Braves aren’t the main characters. Neither are the players on any other team.

    (It also leans hard into the belief that Grissom is an above-average major league shortstop right now, but we’ve had that argument and there’s no real alternative right now except to hope that it’s the case.)

    Grissom doesn’t need to be an above-average major league shortstop in order for the Strider/Anderson, Acuña/(I’m not going to bother to look up who we started in RF), Harris/Duvall, Iglesias/Jansen swaps to get us to a net positive over the 2022 Opening Day roster.

    Also, being better than the 2022 Braves were in April is not an accomplishment that anyone should be bragging about.

    Call me crazy, but I think winning 101 games and prevailing in arguably the most satisfying pennant race any of us has seen or will ever see–right on the heels of winning a World Series–is worth bragging about. That was possible starting from the Opening Day roster you’re dismissing. And I’ll say it again, since no one is seriously contesting it: a roster that’s a bit worse than the one we’re set to field.

    My word but do I hate “good enough” as an excuse.

    Seems like it’s time to repost that “Let’s not turn into Yankees fans” thing again, huh?

  23. If I’m not mistaken, Rusty S has many good King of the Hill references. I believe his Twitter picture is Dale Gribble himself.

  24. @27

    Acuña/(I’m not going to bother to look up who we started in RF),

    Prolly Ryan Church or something. Prolly.

  25. The deal’s done and, for the moment, I’m not gonna get too caught up in the merits of Murphy’s pitch-framing or what we’ll miss w/o Contreras. I’ll trust the GM on that one (& I’ll trust that he’s not completely finished). Nonetheless, I just hope Murphy really hits — like his career away splits indicate he might.

    And Saturday night can’t get here fast enough… Go Dogs.

  26. Gonna be in Rio for NYE with some Michigan Wolverines alum. What has to happen for them to be happy, ububba?

  27. Michigan… vs. TCU?

    Simple… do what they do. Run it, grind it & wear ‘em down. TCU’s a cool team & I’m rooting for them, but I’d be surprised if they won.

    I love to watch TCU’s QB & kick returner, but I think they’ll be overmatched.

    And if I’m a Michigan fan, I’d sure be rooting for Ohio St.

  28. @27 You nailed it. Let’s not be Yankee fans.

    If you’re not at least intrigued by a 22-year old SS who hit .400 for a spell hitting 9th (9th!!) – and are instead demanding a proven commodity – you’re a tad spoiled.

  29. @27

    Acuna was on the team at the start of last year. We knew he was coming back. Acting like he didn’t exist at the time is a tad disingenuous. I stand by last year’s team being better than this year’s team so far.

  30. This year, we presumably get a full season of Acuña, and at full health, two things we couldn’t have said for ourselves last year. Healthy Acuña handily beats the combination of…you know what, I’m at peace with the fact that it totally was Ryan Church out there in RF + non-healthy Acuña.

    But all you have to do is go look up the WAR projections, and if I’m too lazy to google who our RF was, I’m certainly not going to do that either.

    And speaking of constructing our own realities, this guy’s name is Lucas Luetge, he’s a southpaw reliever, and we’re NOT supposed to pronounce his surname so it rhymes with LOOGY? I will not be bringing myself to accept this.

  31. @31 – I should warn everyone, you do not, under any circumstances, want to view my Twitter account.

  32. What a night!

  33. @36 Only one of us has been following the playoff, my friend!

    So Michigan beats TCU handedly if they execute. Thank you.

  34. @35, @36
    Go Blue!
    Go Dawgs!

    I am content beating TCU to set up the inevitable loss to Georgia in the title game

  35. @38 Wrong. Acuna made his first appearance near the end of April and only had two HRs through the beginning of June. Not a normal start for him. Not to mention that he spent half his first month at DH and ultimately had his worst defensive year.

    This year’s team is projected to be better and will likely be better.

    The addition of Luetge is a good one (even better that he was a Rice Owl. Hoot!). We did need another lefty.

  36. Looking at Eli White’s body of work in the majors and minors would give me no reason to consider cash for him, much less, a roster spot. Fortunately, Atlanta’s scouts are a lot smarter than me and see some redeemable quality. Looks mostly like AAA filler before he gets released.

  37. @47 White’s defensive WAR is off the charts. Even with his putrid offense, B-Ref gave him 1.0 WAR and FG gave him 0.9 WAR. They’re very clearly targeting a defensive specialist and a more than quality replacement for Heredia. Hopefully they see something with his bat that could improve under Seitzer, but Heredia was even worse at the plate last year.

  38. 10 umpires are suddenly retiring, including Tom Hallion, Sam Holbrook and Jerry Meals. They state in the article on ESPN that it isn’t about the automatic balls/strikes process but it does make you wonder with the timing…

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