Jake has already reported that Alex Anthopoulos has been a busy man since winning his first World Series title, working the phones non-stop. However, his first move was probably not the one we all expected, even if it was necessary. Last night, the Braves inked catcher Manny Piña to a two-year deal with an option in 2024 for a third season. He will serve has Travis d’Arnaud‘s backup, so let’s see what the newest Brave will provide the team as well as what this could mean for two of the Braves best prospects.
Above all, Piña provides better than average defense and is a guy the Braves pitching staff will enjoy throwing to. Over his eight-year career, he’s thrown out 35% of would-be base stealers, and FanGraphs really values what he provides from a framing aspect.
Piña only hit .189 last season, but he has one of the oddest stats I have ever seen. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was only .162, which almost seems impossible. League average is typically around .300, and Piña owns a .268 mark for his career, so definitely expect some regression back towards the mean in that aspect. Piña is also willing to take his walks. His 10.6% BB rate last season was the highest mark of his career, and he packs some pop in his bat, particularly against left-handed pitchers. Against southpaws in 2021, Piña posted an .854 OPS and 127 wRC+.
As you can see, the stats are far from eye-popping, but he was arguably the best catcher available on the market — the free-agent class is that abysmal for the position — and he was apparently extremely well liked in Milwaukee by his teammates.
My Milwaukee connection tells me Manny Piña was really liked in the clubhouse and around the team (seems to be a common theme with Anthopoulos players) and goes by the nickname Pineapple
— Scott Coleman (@scottcoleman55) November 15, 2021
Also, this is just beautiful.
I’m going to need a Manny Pina jersey
— Trent (@Trenciarte) November 16, 2021
This is undoubtedly the most interesting aspect of the entire transaction. Six months ago, the Braves didn’t even have a catcher under contract going into 2022. Now, they have two signed through 2023, but they also have two top-ten prospects that seem close to being major-league ready.
I’m pretty confident in saying that Shea Langeliers is untouchable. He looks to be the Braves catcher of the future, even if he needs at least a full season in AAA before making his debut. However, Contreras’ future looks much more cloudy after this transaction. He’s received some looks in the majors, and while it’s clear that he has potential with the stick, his sub-par defense during his time with Atlanta may have the organization second-guessing where they see him in the future. The Piña signing gives the Braves some flexibility, and Contreras still possesses a lot of value as a trade chip, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they used him as centerpiece in a significant trade.
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire