Atlanta’s acquisition of catcher Sean Murphy in a three-team trade with the A’s and Brewers led to some speculation about the possibility of trading veteran Travis d’Arnaud, whom Murphy ousted as the starting catcher the moment he was acquired. However, David O’Brien of The Athletic writes that Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has been “adamant” that he has no intention of trading d’Arnaud, whom the team values as a veteran leader — beyond his contributions with the bat and behind the plate.
Heading into the 2023 season, then, it appears as though Murphy and d’Arnaud will hold a timeshare behind the plate, with the universal designated hitter giving the Braves the opportunity to get both catchers in the lineup at times. If the plan is to get d’Arnaud, who slashed .268/.319/.472 with a career-high 18 home runs, into the lineup as a DH with any degree of regularity, that could bode well for Chadwick Tromp’s chances of making the roster as a third catcher in 2023.
The 27-year-old Tromp (28 in March) is the only other catcher on Atlanta’s 40-man roster now that Manny Pina and William Contreras have been traded (in the Murphy deal), though he does have a pair of minor league options remaining. Alternatively, the Braves could bring in a more experienced backup or simply carry just Murphy and d’Arnaud and run the risk of losing their DH on days when both are in the lineup.
Looking beyond the 2023 season, the Braves have d’Arnaud under club control, albeit via an $8MM team option with no buyout. That’s the same salary d’Arnaud is earning in 2023, and while the Braves were comfortable acquiring Murphy and his projected $3.5MM salary at a time when d’Arnaud was already guaranteed $8MM, it’d be a different story to pick up that option, knowing Murphy will be in line for a raise and that d’Arnaud would in all likelihood be ticketed for a lesser role than at the time he signed his current contract.
Still, even if the Braves prefer to try to work out a lower price for the 2024 season (and possibly beyond), O’Brien tweets that the Braves want d’Arnaud to be “around [the] team long term.” He further adds that in the wake of Freddie Freeman’s departure, d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson (who is, of course, a free agent himself at the moment) stepped into key leadership role. While dealing d’Arnaud would give the Braves some perhaps valuable breathing room between their currently projected $229.3MM luxury-tax ledger and the $233MM threshold for luxury penalization, that doesn’t appear to be an approach they’re considering.
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