“If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em”—Braves sign former Brewers catcher Manny Piña

Earlier this evening, the Braves signed veteran catcher Manny Piña, a free agent formerly on the Milwaukee Brewers. Piña spent the 2021 season mostly backing up Omar Narváez, although Manny did appear in 75 regular-season games in 2021. The 34-year-old veteran will be a great addition to the Braves’ roster, both as a solid backup for Travis d’Arnaud and as a mentor to the younger catching prospects such as Shea Langeliers. Following d’Arnaud’s thumb ligament injury, which caused him to miss over two months during the 2021 season, the Braves shuffled around catchers like a miserable game of musical chairs, never really settling on an optimal replacement before d’Arnaud’s return mercifully put an end to the search. Adding Piña to the roster should completely eliminate the need for the backup-catcher-carousel, and allow d’Arnaud to get whatever rest days he needs.

Throughout his 75 regular-season appearances, Pina slashed .189/.293/.493. That’s not a great batting average, sitting (un)comfortably below the Mendoza line of .200, but the slash line gets better and better as you read it. A slugging percentage of .493 is quite respectable, and a .732 OPS is slightly above the league average; perfectly acceptable stuff from an experienced, defensively talented catcher. 

Piña’s contract is $8 million for two years; with d’Arnaud’s $16-million-dollar contract set to expire in 2023 as well, the Braves have secured two solid catchers for the next two years for only $12 million per year. Multiple sources have reported that general manager Alex Anthopoulus has already been incredibly aggressive on the phones this month, so we should expect this to be the first of many transactions in the next few weeks. Considering Anthopoulos’s track record this season, I have a lot of trust in his ability to make some great personnel decisions over the next few months!

Author: Michael Kasper

Sportswriter, stats fanatic, and social media manager here at the Braves Journal. https://twitter.com/KasperStats

14 thoughts on ““If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em”—Braves sign former Brewers catcher Manny Piña”

  1. The Tigers agreed to a five-year deal with Eduardo Rodriguez worth a reported $77 million, for an average annual value of $15.4M/year.

    Interesting deal. I kind of like it. Not a big AAV.

    I thought of a pitching trade option for the Braves, Sonny Gray.

  2. Yeah, I thought that looked like a pretty good deal, too. It’s very interesting, I wonder how many other free agents will sign in the next couple of weeks before the freeze.

  3. I misread the Pina deal at first. I thought they were paying him 8 million for next season only, which is why I said it was an overpay. This I’m perfectly fine with.

  4. In AA I trust. I like it especially since this should hopefully give Langeliers all the time he needs to develop.

  5. Pina’s 2021 BAbip was .162, compared to a career average of .280 (including 2021), so maybe he’s due for some regression to the mean. On the other hand, his ISO was his highest ever (.250, career average .168), so maybe the low BAbip was the result of a swing change.

    Like the move for next year. I guess if Langeliers is ready for 2023, they can trade one of Pina or TdA. Hope they can get something useful for Contreras.

  6. I hadn’t followed this closely of late, but it sounds like the Regional Sports Network model is officially about to bust. Get ready for the owners to cry poverty even more viciously than before.

    https://theathletic.com/2952789/2021/11/15/amid-sports-tv-chaos-what-happens-if-sinclairs-rsns-go-bankrupt-next-year/

    The unsurprising upshot, my guess, is likely to be that owners will feel even more justified in holding the line for every last nickel rather than compromising in the current CBA negotiation. The players feel like they already got hosed by the current QO and luxury tax structure, which have generally served to tamp down salaries quite effectively, and the owners will use the prospect of losing some of their TV dollars as a whip to try to claw back even more.

  7. The Braves must really not like William Contreras’ defense if they aren’t willing to give him a shot at backing up TdA next year… I say that because his offensive ceiling is quite good, as far as catchers goes. Dude batted .290/.357/.516 in AAA last year and his older brother Willson is an above-average player too.

    I am not a huge fan of this move (would rather spend that $8M on Rosario or Soler), but I’ll trust the Braves’ coaching and scouting staff know what they’re doing. Sounds like they are hoping Piña can be David Ross pt. 2.

  8. @9

    Honestly, if the Bally Sports networks go under that would probably be a long-run improvement for the league in terms of potential TV revenue. The Sinclair-led group that owns those networks has not handled one thing right since the start and now they find themselves only available on cable and one (super-expensive) streaming provider. A massive amount of people in the home viewing regions of teams that have Bally Sports contracts are unable to legally watch their games. And Bally Sports may think they’re going to launch a direct-to-consumer app, but they’re not going to be able to get the streaming rights they need. And even if they did, their current app sucks out loud, so they’d have to throw a lot of money into improving that if people are actually gonna be paying money for it.

    The best thing that could happen for the teams (in any league) that are locked into contracts with Bally Sports is for that network to go bankrupt. Get the rights back for free and sell them to someone who actually gives your fans access to the product. Maybe there’d be a momentary hiccup in rights fees, but they would make more money and everybody would be better off in the long run, especially if they figure out how to incorporate streaming into the setup properly, which these current TV deals do not do.

    That said, I’m sure the owners will claim that this is a huge problem for them revenue-wise. One of them realizes that the mayo had turned on that turkey sandwich they just ate and the whole group claims it means bad things for revenue.

  9. To be honest I’m really not a fan of Contreras’ defense and won’t be upset if he moves on. I know he’s young and he showed improvement at times, but every time it looked like he started to figure things out defensively, he seemed to take a few steps backwards. I think his ceiling defensively is slightly below average. I have no idea what he will do on the offensive side, but I’m okay if another team finds that out.

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