ATLANTA (AP) _ Dale Murphy is downplaying the situation, but he acknowledges he would not be surprised if the Atlanta Braves offer him a pay cut or the same salary when his contract expires at the end of this season.

Murphy, Atlanta's team leader in this decade, said he is trying not to become preoccupied with the coming negotiations as he plays his 12th year with the Braves.

He is in the final year of a five-year pact that is paying him $1.9 million this season. The Braves do not plan to enter into contract negotiations until the end of the season.

Murphy, the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1982 and 1983, said he is well aware that baseball is stressing financial austerity and salaries are going down. He saw a contract standoff force former teammate Bob Horner to play in Japan this year.

''I saw what happened last year,'' Murphy said. ''Along with all the other players, I'm concerned about it. But I'm confident things will work out. I haven't thought about it not working out.''

Murphy's agent, Bruce Church, said, ''This would be a poor time to start an austerity program. There are certainly ways to save money, but I wouldn't think this is one of them.''

Braves management met with Church during spring training, but nothing came of the preliminary talks.

While not discussing figures, the Braves make it clear they'd like to keep Murphy in an Atlanta uniform.

''Dale Murphy should be a Brave forever,'' said Manager Chuck Tanner.

Stan Kasten, Braves president, said, ''We want Dale Murphy with us. We want to keep Dale.''

Going into Tuesday night's game against the San Francisco Giants, the 31- year-old Murphy was batting .326 with 19 home runs and 42 runs batted in. His current salary is the 10th highest in baseball.