If I told you this offseason one 2020 free agent would be hitting .333 with a .944 OPS and three home runs to this point, you would probably think I was talking about Josh Donaldson or Anthony Rendon. If I narrowed it down to a catcher, you might say Yasmani Grandal. After all, those three guys (in a 162 game season) were scheduled to make a combined $65.25 million ($21, $26, & $18.25 million respectively). However, that’s actually the line for Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who is making $2.96 million this season — a non-prorated $8 million flat. He’s also reached those numbers in only 12 games after missing the first two series with a non-COVID related illness.
d’Arnaud wasn’t on the radar of many Braves fans until the signing was announced. He was traded twice in one day last season. And after flunking out with the Mets, d’Arnaud found his groove in Tampa. He had a .782 OPS with 16 home runs, which is some quality offensive production, especially for a catcher. His 28% caught stealing rate isn’t anything special, but he’s held it down behind the dish, even while the starting rotation falls apart.
Marcell Ozuna has been about what we expected. On the field, Cole Hamels has been a zero (literally), and Felix Hernandez chose not to play this season. I don’t think anyone foresaw what would happen to this rotation, but Alex Anthopoulos made the right move at catcher. Grandal signed the richest deal in White Sox history and hasn’t given them anything close to what d’Arnaud has provided. In five more games, he has no home runs and a .633 OPS. To Grandal’s credit, though, his caught stealing percentage is a nutty 67%, but that will come back down to earth as the season goes on.
For the money, I’m taking d’Arnaud over almost any catcher in baseball. The best part is, Atlanta still has him at the same rate for next season. If the team decides to part with the red hot Tyler Flowers in exchange for Shea Langeliers or William Contreras, they still have some cushion in d’Arnaud. With everything that’s gone wrong this season, he’s been a much-needed bright spot.
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