He might not be a household name because of the team he plays on, but Oakland Athletics' catcher Sean Murphy has quietly been one of baseball's finest catchers and may be a target for the Chicago Cubs. Murphy, 28, is a well above-average defender behind the plate, a good pitch framer, and has some pop in his bat. He won a Gold Glove in 2021 and is an All-MLB nominee this year.
Murphy is under team control through 2025, becoming arbitration eligible for 2023. The Athletics could be looking to flip him this Winter, and several teams including the White Sox have reportedly already inquired about him. If the Athletics indeed want to move Murphy as reports suggest, there will be a sizeable market for him. This could be a potential solution for the Cubs if they need to replace Willson Contreras.
There is so much to like about Murphy. Last season in 148 games, Murphy was a 5.1 fWAR player, who hit .250/.332/.426 with 18 home runs and a 122 wRC+. Among catchers with at least 400 at bats in 2022, his wRC+ was sixth-best in baseball. Murphy was, overall, the third-highest fWAR catcher in baseball, only trailing Adley Rutschman and J.T. Realmuto. Per statcast, Murphy was in the 84th percentile in pitch framing in 2022 and boasts a career 12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved).
Sean Murphy is an intriguing catching name for the Chicago Cubs.
Hard to imagine a catching core of Murphy and Yan Gomes and not liking that idea. Under that scenario, the Cubs' defense and pitch framing gets better which is big for the upcoming pitching staff. It will be nearly impossible to replace the level of offensive production Contreras provided the Cubs, but Murphy at least can handle the bat. In his past two seasons combined, Murphy produced 35 home runs, 60 doubles, and 111 OPS+.
Acquiring Murphy will require paying a solid price, especially if a number of other teams are interested in him. The deep farm system the Cubs have could be intriguing to the Athletics, who are looking to build up more future assets. The Cubs definitely have plenty of arms in the organization that they could dangle in front of Oakland. Other teams will be offering various packages which makes the market for him more competitive.
If Willson Contreras is not in the future plans for the Cubs, then this feels like a situation where using farm assets to acquire a solidified MLB player is fully justified for the team. Back in 2014-2015, the Cubs made a move for Miguel Montero in a trade with the Diamondbacks, which proved to be crucial. Cannot say if the Cubs are in on Murphy at the moment, but this would make sense for them and time will tell if they explore this option.