Braves 2021 Player Review – Travis d’Arnaud

If you would like to know how hard it is to find adequate catching help, look no further than Travis d’Arnaud and how a guy that played less than half the season can get a 2-year extension at his current rate of pay. Finding a good catcher is like trying to find a good line cook nowadays.

The Braves signed d’Arnaud two offseason ago, and he’s spent the majority of his career in Atlanta with two years worth of commitment at $8M per. We originally signed him to a 2 year, $16M deal in the 2019-2020 offseason. And then halfway through the 2021 season, Atlanta gave him another 2 year, $16M deal that also includes a — you guessed it — $8M club option. Basically he’s going to make $8M a year until he proves he can’t play baseball anymore.

That in and of itself is interesting because he’s proven he can’t play baseball consistently. Catching is a brutal position with incredible scarcity at this point, and d’Arnaud has experienced that brutality more than most. He has never played more than 112 games in a season. He has played less than 80 games 4 of the last 7 seasons. And it’s debatable if he would have held up in 2020 when the league only played 60 games. To his credit, he played the highest percentage of his team’s games that year (44, or 73%).

So, as a surprise to no one, d’Arnaud missed a significant amount of this past season when he sprained his left thumb in May. And even after missing 86 games, he was still not healthy when he came back. He had a huge glove on his left hand protecting that thumb, and his bat didn’t return. His 78 wRC+ was one of the lowest of his career.

He did, however, hit some big home runs for Atlanta in the postseason, and he has a great reputation working with the pitching staff. Fangraphs loves his defense, and if he stays healthy, he can be one of the best catchers in the league. But that’s also because it’s not a high bar to hurdle anymore. Did you know that only 17 catchers played more than 110 games last year? Compare that to, say, second basemen, when 26 predominantly played second base and played in more than 110 games.

Atlanta’s system is pretty deep, compared to other clubs, at catcher with Shea Langeliers and William Contreras significant catching prospects. So Atlanta will probably ride with d’Arnaud over the next couple years. But d’Arnaud’s injury concerns is also what prompted Atlanta to pay a little more for a backup catcher than you’d probably like, giving Manny Pina $4M per year for the next 2 years. But hopefully d’Arnaud will stay healthy, and we won’t need Pina for more than 40-50 games next year.

43 thoughts on “Braves 2021 Player Review – Travis d’Arnaud”

  1. I’m fine with D’Arnaud as a stopgap until Langeliers is ready, especially considering the dearth of quality ML catchers. We’ve talked a lot about Robo Umps, maybe they will go with Robo Catchers. I’m only kidding, but it is difficult to find someone who wants to play catcher. Lefties don’t play catcher and athletic types go to 3rd or the outfield. With the wear and tear on the knees, it doesn’t seem like many are standing (or squatting) in line to play the position.

  2. D’Arnaud is a slow d’ude and will, for the most part, carry a low BABIP. In 2020, it was a Chris Johnson-esque .411 and it d’ropped all the way d’own to .260 (which is pretty close to his career norm) in 2021. Still, he can run into one every now and again and pitchers seem to like throwing to him.

  3. Not thrilled that Gil Hodges made the HOF, but I guess it’s a little too late to claim that there’s anything but a big-Hall mindset among the voters now. I thought Tony Perez, while certainly a very good player, was below the standard the HOF should stick to, but Hodges is similar and clearly not as good. If Hodges is in, I don’t see a reasonable argument for keeping Murphy and lots of other players (and some good player/good manager combinations like Dusty Baker) out.

  4. @6
    None. And since Brent has been out with kid stuff, I’ve yet to restart our pod. I’m willing to give it a go again and just name it Braves Journal Podcast if anyone wants to record twice monthly.

  5. At this point I think there’s no real argument against Dick Allen, either.

    I’d love to be a guest on your podcast!

  6. @6: I catch Behind The Braves every now and then. I used to listen to Atlanta Baseball Talk before they ended a year ago without explanation (they did come back for a World Series show on 7 November). I also have Three Flags Flying and Talking Chop in my library.

  7. @5 Gil Hodges was probably the most respected man in uniform among players and fans for a quarter century. That counts for something. I’m fine with him being in.

  8. I’d love to hear some Ryan and Alex episodes.

    There seems to be a shortage of Braves podcasts. I was listing to 755 Is Real, but that hasn’t been updated since November 12th.

  9. I never venture outside the friendly confines of Braves Journal. If it isn’t said here, t isn’t punditry worth saying.

  10. I used to listen to the Talking Chop podcast but their site has become so clique-ish over the last couple of years that I rarely visit their site.

  11. @6 Also a 755 Is Real listener. I was a big O’Flaherty fan when he was on the team (or rather O’Ventbrel in general) and really appreciate his insight.

    IIRC Moylan has a show now too?

  12. DOB is from eastern North Carolina, but he went to college in Kansas. I can’t say I’ve ever heard him speak.

  13. DOB has a southern accent — albeit it a weird one — or at least that’s how it sounds to me.

  14. @23

    It was. He’s constantly openly rooting for the Jayhawks basketball team on his Twitter feed. (Note: Meant as an observation, not a complaint…he can root for his alma mater on his Twitter feed, as far as I’m concerned.)

  15. @8–imo, Dick Allen clearly deserves in, and not just because he is as good as some other guys already in. He had his issues, but the man was a phenomenal hitter. Allen had a stretch of 11 straight seasons in which he never had an OPS+ below 145. This is entirely off the top of my head, but I doubt that there are five other players in history who could claim that.

    Not even Mike Trout–but only because he has just ten seasons in the big leagues. His lowest OPS+ for a season is 167–and that was in the short 2020 season. And not even Mr. Aaron. He had an OPS+ of 142 in 1966, which was his lowest for a stretch of 18 straight seasons.

    Of course Allen is not in their stratum, but he was a better hitter than many HOFers. He was through at an early age, though. Those 11 seasons were pretty much it for him. But then, Tony Oliva was his almost exact contemporary. Each won their league ROY in 1964. Oliva’s last season was 1976; Allen’s was 1977.

  16. In response to my claim in the first paragraph above, a quick perusual of B Ref proves that I’m wrong, as usual. There are at least five other players who had an OPS+ of 145 or greater for at least 11 straight seasons: Gehrig, Williams, Mantle, Mays, and Bonds. There are certainly a few others. Ruth did not, due to an off year in 1925. Musial had 14 such seasons, but missed out on 11 straight.

    Edit: Checking some more: Cobb had such a streak of 13 years, and Wagner one of 11. Hornsby missed it.

  17. @28–thanks, JonathanF. It’s good to know that some things in life can be depended upon. If I engage in idle speculation about stats in baseball history, JonathanF will deploy Stathead to get to the truth of the matter. Your statthead subsrciption is a treasure, and I appreciate your sharing it.

  18. [Blush]

    But you’re onto something interesting here. Look at the list above. Seasons above 145 OPS+ is a pretty good HoF guide. Out of the top 50, the only ones not in the HoF (and not active) are Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Allen, George Scales, Shoeless Joe and Pete Browning. Note I say Manny Ramirez for those who misremember Raffy’s hitting prowess.

  19. Sorry… and Mark McGwire, who we can conveniently group with Bonds and Ramirez and Jackson as people whose HoF standing have little to do with their performance.

  20. @ 34 …. Jackson?

    I was going to ask who he?

    Then a penny dropped, Reggie? I must have missed something in my innocence, always thought it was cars his undoing not liquid AI…

    But you live and worked up that way so cut me in, please.

    Or is there another Jackson?

  21. More info on the whole Endeavor buying MiLB teams thing is here.

    Endeavor represents baseball players, don’t they? This seems like a potential conflict-of-interest minefield, just like Brodie Van Wagenen’s insane tenure as Mets GM.

    SPEAKING OF WHICH… the new Mets GM just recently worked for Endeavor, a firm that was recently sued for poaching another company’s baseball agents! In the lawsuit, they accused Endeavor of doing that because they were afraid of losing their only MLB client, who’s believed to be Carlos Correa.

    So, Endeavor wants into baseball in the worst way, and they want to both represent and employ players. Curiouser and curiouser! I’m sure it’ll all work out fine.

  22. @37, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who’s not in the Hall of Fame due to gambling, even though he’s an HOF-caliber player.

  23. If it gets more money in the pockets of minor league players, I love it. If not, I hate it.

    Have you guys noticed a lot of guys signing with Japanese teams since the lockout? Do they know something we don’t about the viability of the upcoming season, are they just risk averse, and/or is there a theme with all these that tweener major leaguers might be the ones lost in the shuffle of a protracted lockout?

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