Braves sign Travis d’Arnaud to new two-year contract

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Braves secured their starting catcher through at least the 2023 season Friday, signing Travis d’Arnaud to a new two-year contract.

D’Arnaud, who had been eligible to become a free agent after this season, got a $16 million deal that will pay him $8 million in both the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The contract also includes an $8 million club option for 2024 with no buyout.

“It was a blessing to get reached out to and given the opportunity to come back,” d’Arnaud said. “This team is built to win for the next couple of years -- even longer than that, actually -- and I’m just thankful to be a part of it.

“I wanted to come back, regardless of if I made it to free agency or not. Just to get that out of the way is nice and refreshing. It’s going to be fun. ... This place -- this city, this clubhouse -- has welcomed me with open arms since my first day here. Truthfully, I didn’t want really want to go anywhere else.”

D’Arnaud, 32, won a Silver Slugger Award in his first season with the Braves in 2020, when he batted .321 with nine home runs and a .919 OPS in 44 games during the pandemic-shortened season. He was on the injured list from May 2 until Aug. 11 this season, missing 86 games with a torn thumb ligament that required surgery. He’s hitting .223 with three homers and a .646 OPS in 28 games this season, including 5-for-21 since returning to the active roster last week.

“We always had a desire to have Travis here beyond 2021,” said Alex Anthopoulos, the Braves’ president of baseball operations and general manager. “Him being on the IL, we needed to wait a little bit (to discuss a new contract), but it came together pretty fast here in the last 24 to 48 hours.”

D’Arnaud’s absence for more than three months underscored his value to the Braves, who have used seven catchers this season.

“Everybody that we brought in here, they’ve all done a good job, but ... a lot of times you don’t realize what you have until you don’t have it,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s been great to have him back, and it’ll be really good going forward to have him in the mix.”

D’Arnaud’s new contract matches the two-year, $16 million deal he signed with the Braves as a free agent in November 2019. He agreed to donate 1% of his earnings from the new contract to the Braves Foundation.

D’Arnaud spent his first six MLB seasons with the Mets, often battling injuries. Before joining the Braves, he played with three teams in 2019: the Mets, Dodgers and Rays. He is a career .251/.312/.420 hitter with 75 homers in 572 games.

Barring injury, re-signing him should stabilize the catching position for the Braves, who have highly regarded prospects William Contreras and Shea Langeliers in the minor leagues.

“Contreras and Langeliers are exceptionally talented, and I think they’re both going to be All-Stars at some point,” Anthopoulos said. “But there’s a lot more to the position than just being able to hit or throw guys out. ... This allows us to take our time with both guys.”

Said d’Arnaud: “Hopefully they both know they can reach out to me anytime with any question they have. Hopefully I can spread my knowledge and wisdom from what I’ve learned through failure in this game and through success in this game and make their transition easier.”

Anthopoulos stuck closely to his previous comments when asked, in light of the d’Arnaud signing, about a possible new contract for first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is eligible for free agency after this season.

“Negotiations happen at their own pace and time. As long as things get done, you’re happy,” Anthopoulos said. “The goal is to sign him. He has been very clear his goal is to stay. Beyond that, we never discuss specifics on contracts and things like that, but ... you’re starting from a very good foundation with both sides wanting that.”

Freeman, by the way, retweeted the Braves’ announcement of the d’Arnaud signing Friday and added an applause emoji.