Milwaukee — The Brewers upgraded their striking status Monday, perhaps even making some of their fans feel a little better about the Josh Hader trade.
In a three-team exchange between Oakland, Atlanta, and Milwaukee, the Crews managed to turn over one of the prospects they picked up from the Padres for Grower—quick shortstop Esteore Ruiz—for a five-player All-Star catcher. Years of contract control at William Contreras, as well as two relief pitchers—one a minor leaguer and one a minor leaguer.
The brave get:
Sean Murphy from A.I
Get a beer:
C William Contreras of the Braves
RHP Joel Payamps of the A’s
Braves RHP Justin Yeager
Of Estuary Ruiz of the Brewers (8th in the club)
C Manny Piña from the Braves
LHP Kyle Muller of the Braves (club home base)
Braves RHP Freddy Tarnok (Prospective #6 player on the club)
RHP Royber Salinas of the Braves (18th in club ranking)
For the Braves and Brewers, the deal represented an improvement behind the plate. Murphy, 28, is a standout fullback with a solid three years, slashing 0.250/.332/.426 last season in Oakland with 37 doubles and 18 home runs. At 5.1 fWAR, he was the third-ranked baseball catcher behind Phillies JT Realmuto (6.5) and Orioles rookie Adley Rutschman (5.3).
For the Brewers, Contreras, 24, the younger brother of Cubs-turned-Cardinals Willson Contreras, is a big offensive upgrade at catcher after slashing .278/.354/.506 with 20 home runs in 376 plate appearances last season. Like his older brother, he is seen more as an outfielder than a defenseman, but the Brewers have a history of developing a catcher behind the plate. Watch their take on Omar Narvaez, who came to Milwaukee three winters ago with an offensive reputation and hit the open market this winter with a defensive rep.
Two factors were particularly important from a Brewers perspective: First, Contreras is hitting left-handed to the tune of a .934 OPS—the Brewers ranked 23rd in baseball last season with a .674 OPS against the Southpaws. Second, Contreras is under contractual control until 2027.
“[He’s] “A dynamic putter,” Brewers general manager Matt Arnold said. “You guys saw what he did at a very young age. That’s one of the things that really drew us to him; his bat has a chance to be really special.”
“He was primarily the bat, but we also think he’s got really good components in there,” said Arnold. “One of the things that excites us about this profile is that he’s so athletic, and two, we’ve worked with a number of these fishermen in the past and had some really solid success. That’s a credit to our people. Whether that’s someone like Manny Peña, Yasmani Grandal, Omar Narváez — the guys who come here with some kind of reputation as a potential first bat, they’ve really managed to get better defensively.”
With Contreras, the Brewers have four players on their 40-man roster, all with major league experience: Contreras, Victor Caratini, Mario Feliciano, and Peyton Henry. All but Karatini are in pre-arbitration years and have minor league options.
The Brewers also added guns in the deal. The 28-year-old Payamps (pronounced joh-EHL PIE-omps) has a 3.35 ERA in 82 combined appearances for four major league teams — the D linebackers, Blue Jays, Royals and A’s — and he’s striking out a 3.23 ERA over a season-high 41 games. Past. It is expected to reach arbitration eligibility next year.
“He’s a guy we’ve had our eyes on for two years,” Arnold said. “When he became available, we thought he was a really good pitcher who could fit into our mix in the big leagues right away.”
Yeager, who turns 25 on January 20, is a tough pitcher with a 3.21 ERA, 16 saves, and . 188 strikeout average in 94 games (all in relief) during his minor league career. Between High-A and Double-A levels last year, Yeager struck out 81 batters in 52 1/3 innings pitched and stopped opponents with a . 158 average.
The package represents a significant notch considering the Brewers only gave up one player in the trade, and Ruiz fell short of many other prospects on Milwaukee’s regulation depth chart. Among those others are major league ready players like Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, and possibly Joey Wimmer.
“Look, we certainly don’t elevate football in any trade,” said Arnold. “I think it’s important to realize that there are a lot of different ways organizations value their players. For us, it worked. It worked for Atlanta and Oakland. I think that’s a really good thing for everyone.”
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