Calling Travis d'Arnaud passionate about baseball would be an understatement.
Like any of his peers, d’Arnaud wants to earn a World Series ring before his playing career ends. He might have made the best possible choice by agreeing on a two-year, $16 million contract with the Braves, who are widely considered to be one of the teams best positioned to win it all in 2020.
“I want to play until I can’t walk anymore,” he said on a conference call Monday, one day after the deal was announced. “I just felt like the fit in Atlanta was a great fit.”
d’Arnaud is expected to help fill the void created by Brian McCann, who retired at the end of the 2019 season. The 30-year-old is already relishing the presence of Braves catching instructor Sal Fasano, who he worked with several years ago when d’Arnaud was a Blue Jays farmhand and Fasano was with the Toronto organization. The backstop said he was “ecstatic” about their impending reunion.
d’Arnaud savored his postseason experience with the Rays last season, as they pushed the Astros to the limit in the American League Division Series but lost in five games.
“For me, that was huge,” said d’Arnaud, who hit .263 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs in 92 games with the Rays in 2019. “It’s something I’ve always wanted and will continue to want -- to win the playoffs and the World Series.”
Briefly, d’Arnaud appeared serious about returning to the Rays, who signed him after he was jettisoned by both the Mets and Dodgers last season. But he ultimately decided that free agency would give him the best chance to join a title contender.
“The Rays talked to me about coming back. It’s just something that didn’t work out,” d’Arnaud said. “I’m forever grateful to them [for giving] me a chance to play again. … No hard feelings at all. I have to give credit to all the people in the Rays organization who helped me believe in myself.”
d’Arnaud was largely referring to his comeback from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in April 2018, punctuating a career filled with several ailments including hand and wrist injuries, a sprain to his left (non-throwing) elbow and concussions.
On Monday, he sounded optimistic about what his future holds.
“I feel like I have a lot of years left,” he said.