Depending on your advanced metric site du jour, the Braves catching duo finished between 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in cumulative stats. In 2022, Travis D’Arnaud, William Contreras, Manny Pina, and Chadwick Tromp saw innings at catcher with D’Arnaud carrying the bulk at 876.1, followed by Contreras with 520.2, PiÃ±a with 44, and Tromp with 9.
When Freddie Freeman left for the West Coast, Braves fans immediately claimed Dansby Swanson as the clubhouse leader, but I didn’t really see it that way. With his ability to keep things loose and make an entire staff feel comfortable, D’Arnaud’s my choice as the clubhouse leader and the proof is in the squatting as Travis, at age 33, was only bettered by his 22 year old self, who caught 990.1 innings.
It wasn’t just the defense, though. Snitker wanted D’Arnaud’s bat in the lineup, penciling him in at DH for 6 games alongside his 99 games started at C. Overall, D’Arnaud slashed .268/.319/.472 with 25 doubles, 1 triple, and 18 HRs. The Braves have D’Arnaud under contract for $8MM in 2023 with a club option for the same in 2024, and I bet they’ll pick it up because it’s a bargain.
Willian Contreras had a problem in 2021. In country terms, “He didn’t catch good”. In 415.2 innings, he was worth -7 DRS. The saving grace was the bat…it was hot. Then it wasn’t. From game 10 through game 51, his OPS dropped over .300 points and it became apparent that the bat not the glove was playing up, so playing time became few and far between from July on.
That wasn’t the case in 2022. The catching was good enough to get the call to start 60 games, totaling 518.2 innings behind the plate and the bat stayed strong throughout the season as Contreras carried a slash-line of .278/.354/.501 topped off by 20 HRs.
On November 5th, 2021, the Braves signed Manny Pina to a 2/$8MM deal with a $4MM club option and that is when I thought William Contreras’s days with the Braves were over. Apparently, so did Contreras as he put up a social media post with the “Hmmmm..” emoji, followed by the “angry” emoji. Luckily for both the Braves and Contreras, Pina had season ending surgery and innings were found for Contreras and he capitalized on someone else’s unfortunate circumstance.
We didn’t get to see Pina very much, but he’s a pitcher’s catcher that can hit and I have no idea out AA convinced him to sign for so little with a club option for so little. It feels like Pina is a trade chip, especially if the Braves add another catcher to the 40-man roster at some point this offseason. However, it would not surprise me to see the Braves re-visit giving Contreras innings in the outfield and keep Pina, providing more positional flexibility for the team. If I were a betting man, though, I’d bet Pina is bound for a ticket out of Atlanta.
Well, THAT was unexpected. Chadwick “Hitting Machine” Tromp, had 4 ABs, 3 hits, 2 doubles, 3 RBI, and earned a 0.2 WAR, and that was it. And yes… it was a fluke. Even in a good year, Tromp is a very average hitter (.697 OPS for his MiLB career) and has always been known for his defense. Tromp still finds himself on the 40-man roster, but I cannot imagine that he stays there and will likely be DFA’d at a time when other GMs have filled out their 40-man, therefore AA can outright him and keep the depth. Unfortunate for Tromp, but it’s the business.
Final Breakdown: Braves have a luxury that other teams do not: 3 above average catchers. I believe the Braves will utilize this asset in a trade to grab a bench piece and/or a reliever.