Red Sox explored possibility of acquiring Athletics catcher Sean Murphy before last week’s trade deadline, per report

Before the trade deadline passed last week, the Red Sox reportedly explored the possibility of trading for Athletics catcher Sean Murphy, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

This past Monday, Speier wrote that the Red Sox discussed “dealing prospects for players who would be under team control for the longer haul.” Murphy was among the players Boston targeted, though they ultimately could not find a match.

Murphy, 27, is under club control with the Athletics through the end of the 2025 campaign and emerged as one of baseball’s top catchers in recent years. Through 101 games this season, the right-handed hitting backstop has batted .242/.316/.424 with 26 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 48 RBIs, 46 runs scored, one stolen base, 33 walks, and 88 strikeouts over 415 plate appearances.

From behind the plate, Murphy has thrown out 13 of a possible 43 base stealers. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder currently ranks fifth among all big-league catchers in fWAR (3.0), per FanGraphs. He is also well-regarded when it comes to pop time and framing.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the A’s are in the midst of a lengthy rebuild and have traded away key players such as Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Frankie Montas, and Lou Trivino in recent months. The expectation seems to be that Murphy, who turns 28 in October, will be the next big-leaguer moved since Oakland’s top two prospects — Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom are both catchers.

Cotillo opines that Murphy will draw strong interest from catcher-needy clubs this winter. Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes reported last week that the Guardians were among the several teams interested in Murphy ahead of the trade deadline and could open up talks with the Athletics again this off-season.

That the Red Sox were in the market for a frontline catcher is certainly interesting when you consider that they just traded Christian Vazquez to the Astros for a pair of prospects in Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu.

Even before trading away Vazquez, though, Boston was expected to bolster its catching depth this winter since both Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki are slated to become free-agents. Reese McGuire, who was acquired from the White Sox, is under club control through the 2025 but is more of a backup-type. The same can be said for prospects Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez, who are having solid seasons with Triple-A Worcester but remain unproven at the major-league level.

Murphy, who took home the Gold Glove Award for American League catchers last season, would represent quite the upgrade in that department. At the same time, it would likely take a package of top prospects and/or major-league-ready talent to pry Murphy away from Oakland since the former third-round pick is not eligible for free agency for another three years.

(Picture of Sean Murphy: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ decision to pick up Christian Vázquez’s 2022 team option was ‘not a no-brainer’, per report

The Red Sox may have exercised Christian Vazquez’s club option for the 2022 season back in November, but it apparently was not a simple decision for the team to make.

As part of the three-year, $13.35 million contract extension Vazquez signed with the Sox before the 2018 season, there was a team option attached for a potential fourth year in 2022.

The value of that option was dependent on the number of plate appearances Vazquez accrued during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. Since he fell short of the threshold he needed to reach, the veteran catcher’s option for 2022 decreased from $8 million to $7 million.

Coming off a season in which he batted .258/.308/.352 with 23 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 49 RBIs, 51 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 84 strikeouts over 138 games (498 plate appearances) while leading all big-league backstops in innings caught (1,051 1/3), the Red Sox were put in a position where they had to decide if they wanted Vazquez back for $7 million.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. ultimately decided on having Vazquez return for 2022, but that resolution may not have been reached unanimously within the organization.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “sources indicate the decision to pick up Vázquez’s $7 million option was not a no-brainer, and that there was internal debate over whether he was worth that salary after a down year in 2021.”

The idea that Boston would decline Vazquez’s option and allow the 31-year-old to become a free agent can be backed up by a recent report from the Miami Herlad which states that the Red Sox made an offer “and at one point thought they had a deal” to acquire Gold Glove Catcher Jacob Stallings from the Pirates.

Stallings, who was dealt from the Marlins to the Pirates in late November, is slightly older than Vazquez as he turns 32 next week. He was also the best catcher in baseball this season when it comes to Defensive Runs Saved (21) and is under team control through the end of the 2024 season.

Because of the Sox’ reported interest in a controllable backstop such as Stallings, Cotillo writes that it would not be surprising if “the Red Sox make a surprising move to upgrade at catcher — and add a controllable player — sooner rather than later.”

At present, the Red Sox have four catchers on their 40-man roster between Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, and prospects like Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez.

Although Vazquez and Plawecki are seemingly locked in to begin 2022 as Boston’s top two catchers with Wong and Hernandez waiting in the wings at Triple-A Worcester, the expectation seems to be that Bloom and his staff are not done adding.

Once the Major League Baseball lockout ends and the transaction freeze is lifted, it appears as though the Red Sox will continue to explore upgrading at catcher. And while the free-agent market may be decimated in that department, the trade market certainly is not.

The Padres, as noted by Cotillo, also have four catchers on their 40-man roster in Jorge Alfaro, Luis Campusano, Victor Caratini, and Austin Nola. The Athletics, who are expected to tear down their roster once the lockout is lifted, represent another intriguing match since they could offer Sean Murphy.

Murphy, 27, won the Gold Glove Award for American League catchers this season and is not slated to hit free agency until after 2025. His asking price would presumably be high, but it could be something worth exploring for the Red Sox.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)