Braves sign d'Arnaud to 2-year deal

November 24th, 2019

The Braves continued their busy start to the offseason on Sunday when they signed veteran catcher to a two-year, $16 million deal.

The move comes three days after top free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal signed a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox. Atlanta was among the teams interested in Grandal before the two-time All-Star signed with Chicago.

The Braves instead landed the 30-year-old d'Arnaud, who is coming off an up-and-down 2019 season during which he spent time with the Mets, Dodgers and Rays.

"We've been pretty clear about needing someone to add to the roster, and we had Travis right up at the top," Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.

Anthopoulos has ties to d'Arnaud that date back nearly a decade. The GM first acquired d'Arnaud in December 2009, when Anthopoulos -- in the same position with the Blue Jays at the time -- brought d'Arnaud to Toronto in the deal that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies. d'Arnaud played three seasons in the Blue Jays' farm system before he was traded to the Mets in part of the blockbuster deal that sent Noah Syndergaard to the Mets.

d'Arnaud has battled a plethora of injuries over his seven-year career. He missed two weeks with a concussion in 2014, then was sidelined for nearly two months with a fractured right hand in '15. Less than two weeks after his return from the hand injury, d'Arnaud sustained a hyperextended left elbow that cost him another month.

The injuries continued in 2016, when a right rotator cuff strain put him on the shelf for seven weeks. d'Arnaud also underwent Tommy John surgery in April '18 that forced him to miss the remainder of the season, as well as the first month of the '19 campaign.

Upon his return, d'Arnaud hit .087 (2-for-23) in 10 games before he was released by the Mets on May 3. He signed with the Dodgers two days later, but he was traded to the Rays after playing in just one game. d'Arnaud found his stride in Tampa Bay, slashing .263/.323/.459 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs over 92 games.

"He's been a highly touted prospect for a long time," Anthopoulos said. "Injuries have derailed his career and his upside, but he finally got to settle in with the Rays and show what he's capable of doing, and we think he's going to continue to move forward in that direction."

The addition of d'Arnaud adds further depth behind the plate for a Braves team trying to help offset the retirement of Brian McCann.

Atlanta already re-signed to a one-year deal earlier this offseason, and the club still has two catchers among its Top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline: Shea Langeliers (No. 5) and William Contreras (No. 8).

"With prospects, when they're ready, they're going to find their way up here," Anthopoulos said. "This was about making the 2020 Braves and 2021 Braves as good as they can be. We'd love to be in a position where our prospects are playing well and they deserve to be on the big league team and we have some tough decisions to make. But right now, with Flowers and Travis, we really like where we're at at that position."

Anthopoulos said he expects d'Arnaud's ability to hit for power to all fields -- particularly right-center -- to play well at SunTrust Park. He also cited d'Arnaud's clubhouse presence and ability to plan and call a game behind the plate.

"We're excited to add him," Anthopoulos said. "We're going to do everything we can to keep him on the field, and hopefully he's going to have two great years for us."

By adding d'Arnaud to the mix for a relatively low price -- compared to the deal Grandal signed with the White Sox -- the Braves still have some flexibility going forward. The club still plans to add a third baseman, whether that means re-signing or signing another free agent. Atlanta is also believed to be in the market for a starting pitcher.

"We're going to continue to try to make our club better," Anthopoulos said. "We'll see how that manifests itself, but we're still in a position, and still active trying to add to the club."