Tuesday, November 16, 2021 – Daily Notes: A precursor or not, signing Manny Piña makes sense for the Braves

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

-Clint Manry

Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t want a repeat of last season, when the team’s production at catcher suffered dramatically. Thanks to a nagging thumb injury, starter Travis d’Arnaud played in only 60 games in 2021, and in turn, Atlanta finished the campaign ranked 29th in catcher WAR, per FanGraphs. A 162-game season takes depth, and Anthopoulos added just that on Monday, signing catcher Manny Piña to a two-year deal worth $8 million.

As surprising as the signing may be, given the fact rookie William Contreras has obviously made strides, and prospect Shea Langeliers is certainly on his way, the Pina deal does make a ton of sense. First off (perhaps the most popular expectation), is that with the added surplus at the position the Braves could now move Contreras in exchange for reinforcements in other areas of need (such as an outfielder, starting pitcher or bullpen help). His stock may not be as high as it was when he was a teenager coming up through the minors, but the 23-year-old Venezuelan would no doubt help bring in a star major leaguer, which could free up some cash for other areas of the team (or for re-signing Freddie Freeman!).

Although, trading the former prospect catcher doesn’t have to be a requirement. With the universal-DH likely coming next season, there’s a scenario where both d’Arnaud and Piña play at the same time, with Contreras remaining as the primary back-up on the big league roster. If you’re not aware of Pina’s offensive profile, the guy has some serious pop as he belted 13 homers in just 75 games this past season with the Brewers.

Which brings us back to Piña: this isn’t a bad player at all. Sure, he’ll likely handle the small end of a rotation with d’Arnaud, but not only is he a good framer behind the plate, and as many have already mentioned across Twitter, the guy has been a pretty notable xwOBA underperformer (by over 30 points combined since 2020), which suggests his recent numbers could’ve been much better. Essentially, Atlanta is getting a league-average player at a position that’s incredibly difficult to find talent, and it’s only costing them a few million dollars per season.

Regardless, though, the fact that Anthopoulos is making moves this early is a great sign, and if you’re one that tends to read too much into things (like me), than it’s fair to wonder if this could be a prerequisite to perhaps the biggest trade of Anthopoulos’ tenure as Braves GM as moving Contrereas would be quite the headliner. Though as mentioned above, signing Piña could be as simple as shoring up a hole from this past season. As usual, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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