Padres should consider a deal for A’s catcher Sean Murphy

Sep 20, 2022; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy (12) hits an RBI double against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Catchers have always been one of the most valuable positions on the field. However, they usually are not heavy on the offense. Athletics catcher Sean Murphy is a great balance of excellent defense while being a legitimate threat with the bat.

The Athletics made him available for trade. Several teams are interested in the 2021 Gold Glover.

Knowing Padres president of baseball operations and general manager A.J. Preller, San Diego is likely among those “several teams” interested. Preller is always looking for a big splash. While the farm system has been gutted considerably, he still has pieces he could pawn off for a big fish.

Murphy is worth trading for. First, he is under control for three seasons.

Second, he is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. With the new rules coming into play in 2023, with bigger bases and limits on pickoff attempts, having a catcher who can throw out a possible base-stealer is crucial. The Padres were putrid in that regard in 2022. They were dead last in total runners caught stealing against their catchers by a wide margin. That weakness will be exacerbated next season.

Padres catchers only threw out 13 attempting base-stealers in 2022. They also tied for the second-most passed balls as a group. All in all, it was a subpar season for Padres catchers. It’s time to consider an upgrade.

As of now, only write in Austin Nola as the 2023 Opening Day starter in pencil, not pen.

The Padres’ front office has hinted that Jorge Alfaro will not be part of the 2023 team and will be non-tendered. This leaves Nola and the young and unproven Luis Campusano as the lone catchers on the roster.

Murphy is an upgrade in every way over Nola. Defensively, he ranked fifth, putting him in the 96th percentile, in “pop time,” which measures the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base. Last season, he was sixth in total baserunners thrown out.

Austin Nola ranked 48th.

Murphy also checks into the 84th percentile for framing. Nola was in the 30th percentile.

At the plate, Murphy more than holds his own. If there is any park that is just as tough to hit in as Petco Park, it’s the cavernous Oakland Coliseum. Thus, coming to San Diego  does not pose to be a culture shock to him as it has others coming to town.

In over 600 plate appearances last season, Murphy batted .250 with a .759 OPS, which ranked eighth among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances.

His 122 wRC+ ranked sixth. He is also ninth in total home runs by a catcher since the start of 2021, with 35.

Meanwhile, Nola’s power is virtually nonexistent, with a grand total of six homers over the last two regular seasons. Among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances, Nola ranks 18th with an 89 wRC+.

Overall, Murphy is no worse than a top-10 catcher in the league at the moment. Catchers that are elite defensively but also are not a liability at the plate are at a premium these days. While Nola is well-liked in the clubhouse and receives praise for his work with the pitching staff, the Padres need more from that position if they have World Series hopes in 2023.

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Trading for Murphy will hurt. The price will be high, and the competition will be fierce. To even get in the door for negotiations with Oakland, it is likely at least one of San Diego’s top two prospects, Jackson Merrill and Dylan Lesko will need to be in the conversation.

With how close the Padres were to a National League pennant, just three wins away, it’s not hard to imagine Preller foaming at the mouth to do anything possible to get over that hump.

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