Braves sign catcher Piña to 2-year deal

November 16th, 2021

ATLANTA -- With their first significant move since winning the World Series, the Braves have strengthened their catching depth by signing Manny Piña, a highly regarded backup catcher who will take some strain off Travis d’Arnaud.

Piña signed a two-year, $8 million contract on Monday. The Braves announced the deal includes a $4 million club option for the 2024 season with no buyout.

With the addition of Piña, the Braves have gained the quality catching depth they lacked when d’Arnaud missed more than three months this year with a torn ligament in his left thumb. They spent more than a month after d'Arnaud's injury giving the everyday duties to William Contreras, who entered this past season having played only 64 games above the High Class A level.

Now, instead of having to rush Contreras or Shea Langeliers, the club's No. 2 prospect, the Braves have much more seasoned experience in the form of Piña, a 34-year-old veteran who will make $3.5 million in 2022 and $4.5 million in 2023.

Piña hit a career-best 13 home runs while hitting .189 with a .732 OPS for the Brewers this past season. While he has some power potential, his primary value comes via his game calling and defensive skills. He threw out 29.7 percent (11-for-37) of basestealers in 2021, and has nabbed 34.7 percent (70-for-202) of those who have attempted to steal against him during his career.

The Braves made this signing a little more than two months after inking d’Arnaud to a two-year, $16 million deal. So, with Atlanta planning to use d’Arnaud and Piña as its catching duo for the next two seasons, Langeliers and Contreras may have to wait a little longer than expected to become the Braves’ everyday option.

Contreras has made significant strides offensively over the past couple years and he did create some encouragement as his plate-blocking skills moved closer to serviceable this year. But both he and Langeliers could both significantly benefit from another full year of seasoning at the Minor League level.

If the Braves choose to deal from a position of strength, they could improve another area of the club by trading either Langeliers or Contreras this winter.

Langeliers ranks as MLB's No. 10 catching prospect per MLB Pipeline. The 23-year-old backstop already has one of the game’s top catching arms and his defense will likely allow him to enjoy a long big league career as either a starter or backup. He quieted some critics as he hit .258 with 22 homers and a .836 OPS for Double-A Mississippi this year.

But even though Langeliers might indeed be better than expected from an offensive standpoint, he has experienced just one full Minor League season. So, he certainly wasn’t going to be used as a backup in 2022. The question is whether he or Contreras might be ready for an everyday role in 2023, when d’Arnaud and Piña will be entering the final year of their respective deals.