Just a few days ago Ken Rosenthal reported in The Athletic that the Atlanta Braves had been one of the teams that had checked in with the A's about Sean Murphy, with the thinking being that they could trade one of their own two solid backstops if they were to land Murphy. He also said that the chances of the Braves landing Murphy were slim.
Then on Sunday to kick off the Winter Meetings a little early, Mark Feinsand, an Executive Reporter for MLB.com, tweeted out that the A's were close to trading Murphy, and the Braves were considered the frontrunners.
This was an odd tweet to see, because the Braves just don't make sense as a trading partner this time around. Sure enough, a correction was sent out roughly an hour later.
Sean Murphy has yet to be traded at the time of this writing, so I'm not sure how "close" a deal was in the first place. He is expected to be moved in the next few days, so close-ish, I suppose.
But the Braves package, if they had been the frontrunners as was initially reported, would have had to have included at least one piece off of the big-league roster, and it wouldn't have been one of the Braves' catchers.
The A's are trading away a player with three years of team control and who is one of the best at his position, so the price tag is high. Oakland is also looking for years of control, so one of the rookies that the Braves debuted in 2022 would be a fit, potentially.
Spencer Strider wasn't going to be that guy, because his value is arguably higher than Murphy's by himself, and the A's aren't close enough to contention to waste a year or two of service time.
Michael Harris II is the reigning Rookie of the Year in the NL and the Braves already signed him to an extension, so he's also out.
That would have left Vaughn Grissom as the only guy that could have feasibly been included in this deal that could have made it work. Grissom hit .291 with a .353 OBP and he struck out just 21.8% of the time, even when making the jump from Double-A straight to the big leagues. He also still has six years of team control left.
From an A's perspective, it wouldn't be logical to make this deal for a second baseman when any number of guys they currently have could end up at second base. Jordan Díaz, a bat first player currently, was given a quick tryout at the position towards the end of the regular season, and A's #3 prospect Zack Gelof played all 21 of his games during the Arizona Fall League at second. He's likely starting in Triple-A in 2023.
Grissom had primarily been a shortstop in the minor leagues, but was promoted and moved to second base when Ozzie Albies went down. That makes a little more sense from an Oakland perspective, but at the same time, Atlanta's starting shortstop from 2022, Dansby Swanson, is currently a free agent, and Grissom has to be the backup plan (or perhaps the primary plan?) if Atlanta is unable to land one of the big free agent shortstops, so including him in this potential Sean Murphy deal could have created a big hole on the Braves' roster.
Of the Braves' top 10 prospects, nine of them are pitchers, and the other, their #5 prospect, is a shortstop. It's hard to see the A's landing two shortstops in this deal to go along with their in-house Gold Glove caliber shortstop, Nick Allen.
So that would mean the deal would be heavy on pitchers, and using Baseball Trade Values as a guide, it would take roughly the top 3-4 pitchers in the Braves system, so their top 3-4 prospects plus Vaughn Grissom, who could be their starting shortstop in 2023, to make this deal make a little bit of sense from an A's perspective.
It should also be noted that none of those pitchers are listed inside FanGraphs' top 100 prospects.
You also have to believe that Braves fans would have a hard time swallowing that trade, too. The initial tweet was a real head-scratcher, and was most likely a plant by the A's front office to get things moving. It's Winter Meetings SZN.
The Cardinals and Guardians remain the teams that make the most sense in a deal for the A's backstop, with the Rays, Red Sox, and White Sox lurking right behind them.