A's get Braves' top prospect Muller in 3-team, 9-player trade

Oakland acquires 5 players, sends Murphy to Atlanta, Payamps to Milwaukee

December 13th, 2022

OAKLAND -- The A’s spent the offseason assessing whether the market for could fetch a return worthy of dealing away the prized catcher. They found that offer on Monday, in the form of a nine-player deal with the Braves and Brewers.

Oakland dealt Murphy to the Braves, receiving left-hander , Atlanta's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, along with right-handers Freddy Tarnok (the Braves' No. 6 prospect) and Royber Salinas (Atlanta’s No. 18 prospect), catcher and outfielder (Milwaukee’s No. 8 prospect) from the Brewers. The A’s sent righty to Milwaukee, which also received catcher and righty Justin Yeager from Atlanta.

A’s get: OF Esteury Ruiz (from MIL), C Manny Piña, LHP Kyle Muller, RHPs Freddy Tarnok and Royber Salinas (from ATL)

Braves get: C Sean Murphy (from OAK)

Brewers get: C William Contreras and RHP Justin Yeager (from ATL), RHP Joel Payamps (from OAK)

As the number of teams interested in Murphy only seemed to grow with each day that passed during last week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, it became a matter of not if but when the 28-year-old backstop would get traded. With Murphy entering his first year of arbitration and under team control through the 2025 season, the circumstances had to be ideal for A’s general manager David Forst to part ways with the 2022 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award finalist.

“This specific deal with Atlanta picked up once we got back from the Winter Meetings and into the weekend,” Forst said. “A lot of our conversations were centered around which teams, frankly, weren’t willing to deal and who was off the table. We finally got to a place with the Braves where we knew who we wanted, and they were open to it and open to going to get Ruiz. That kind of accelerated the discussion over the last couple of days.”

Forst made it clear from the end of the regular season that his club would look to acquire multiple players at the Major League level or close to it who could help expedite Oakland's current rebuilding phase. Both of those qualities exist within the new additions.

“All five players involved are here for a reason,” Forst said. “Different stages of their development. … We tried to balance helping out the Major League team right away, trying to get better, with also a lot of upside in this deal. Young players, guys who are Major League ready, with big tool sets that we were out there looking for.”

The trade of Murphy continues an overhaul of Oakland’s roster that began earlier this year. Last Spring Training, the A’s dealt stars Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea in separate trades that netted them a total of 12 prospects. It continued into the regular season, with the trade of Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to the Yankees in exchange for four more prospects, including left-handers and , both of whom flashed promise as members of the starting rotation over the final month of 2022.

Where does this leave the A’s catching situation?
Speaking with reporters during the Winter Meetings, both Forst and A’s manager Mark Kotsay expressed their confidence in catcher ’ readiness to step into a starting role behind the plate, and Monday’s move doubled down on those statements. Adding Piña, a 35-year-old veteran of nine big league seasons, is also significant in that it provides Langeliers, 25, an experienced backup.

Langeliers, also acquired from Atlanta in the Olson deal in March, graduated from his status as Oakland’s No. 1 prospect in 2022. Splitting time behind the plate with Murphy over the final two months of the season, Langeliers collected 17 extra-base hits over 40 Major League games and displayed premium tools both with the glove and at the plate that the A’s believe will evolve into a well-rounded catcher, in a similar mold to that of his now-former teammate.

“A big part of this transaction is knowing that you’re putting Shea out there for this opportunity without a whole lot of Major League experience,” Forst said. “We’re not out there looking to trade Sean Murphy unless we’re dealing from a position of depth.”

What does this mean for ?
Forst referenced Muller and Ruiz as players the A’s expect to be part of their Opening Day roster. Muller, who spent the majority of 2022 at Triple-A Gwinnett and posted a 3.41 ERA in 23 starts with 159 strikeouts and 40 walks over 134 2/3 innings, should slot somewhere in Oakland's starting rotation.

As for Ruiz, Forst said that despite the 23-year-old speedster’s ability to play second base and multiple outfield spots, the club views him as an everyday center fielder.

Pache, acquired as a headlining prospect along with Langeliers in the Olson deal last spring, was Oakland’s Opening Day center fielder in 2022 and assumed the starting role on a regular basis, until struggles at the plate led to a midseason move to the Minor Leagues. Heading into '23, Pache is out of Minor League options.

“We’ll need to figure that out,” Forst said of the center-field situation. “Cristian is out of options, and so it’ll be an important spring for him. We’ll deal with that in Spring Training.”

Pache’s elite defensive traits shined in his time with Oakland last season, though his .459 OPS was the worst among qualified Major League rookies.

Ruiz slashed .332/.447/.526 with 16 home runs, 33 doubles, two triples and 65 RBIs over a combined 114 games at Double-A and Triple-A in 2022, leading the Minor Leagues with 85 stolen bases.