The Atlanta Braves added Sean Murphy in the offseason and upgraded their already solid catching tandem.
Before 2023, fans expected they would see William Contreras and Travid d'Arnaud manning the backstop position for Atlanta. However, the front office had other ideas as they completed a 3-team trade that brought the best defensive catcher in baseball to the Braves.
Murphy played well enough in 2023 to earn his first-ever All-Star nomination as he earned enough votes to be the starting catcher for the National League in Seattle.
He finished the season with a .251 average with a career-high 21 home runs and 68 runs batted in over 108 games played. Pretty great season considering he split some time with Travis d'Arnaud throughout the season.
However, the glaring issue is that his first half was significantly better than his second half. Through 67 games in the first half, he batted .306/.400/.599 with 17 home runs, 55 runs batted in, and a .999 OPS. Those were MVP-like numbers being put up by the Atlanta backstop.
The second half wasn't nearly as impressive as he only batted .159/.310/.275 through 41 games with 4 homers and 13 runs batted in. That is a severe drop-off and was kind of expected as he was performing at an exceptionally high level. The regression wasn't expected to be as bad as it ended up being but that level of performance is hard to continue through 162 games.
Throughout his career, Murphy has always been a much better hitter in the first half. So, that is something that he will need to try and work to improve for the 2024 season. He wasn't much of a factor at all for the Braves in their brief playoff appearance, outside of throwing out a runner at second base in the first game of the NLDS.
He had a fantastic season defensively and somehow did not get a nomination for a Gold Glove. He had the 6th-best DRS in the league with an 8 and a Fielding Run Value of 14.
He was better in almost every category except for pop time over J.T. Realmuto who was actually one of the worst defenders in 2023, surprisingly. Yet, Realmuto got the nomination over Murphy and other deserving candidates.
Trading for Murphy has been worth it so far and he has been everything the Braves expected him to be. He is going to be a great part of the Atlanta organization going forward but will need to find a way to be more consistent offensively in the second half.
If he can do that, the Braves will continue to have one of the best infields in all of Major League Baseball. Their strength at the catching position has been so encouraging to see over the last few seasons and it's comforting to know it will remain that way.