As Omar Narvaez looks to hit free agency, the Milwaukee Brewers will be left with a decision to make at the catcher position. They can try to have Alex Jackson or Mario Feliciano take on the backup role while Victor Caratini remains the starter. This option saves precious payroll space, but if the Brewers are willing to spend some resources to bolster the catcher position, the Atlanta Braves would be a good call to make.
The Braves looked on pace to return to the World Series this season after winning it all in 2021 and their catching depth certainly helped propel their success. The Braves rostered two starting-caliber catchers in veteran Travis d’Arnaud and the 24-year old William Contreras. Juggling the platoon of d’Arnaud and Contreras worked in ‘22, but with Conteras looking ready to take on full-time starter duties after an All-Star appearance, the Braves might be willing to talk about a deal.
Contreras could be viewed as the better of the two for the Brewers purely based on his age and contract status. He has one more season before he becomes arbitration-eligible for the first time going into the 2024 season. 2022 was Contreras’ first true full-season workload at the major league level, and he handled it well, hitting .278/.354/.506 with 20 home runs and 14 doubles. He also boasted an impressive 138 wRC+.
If the Braves (understandably) have no interest in trading Contreras, d’Arnaud has plenty of his own appeal. At 33 years old, the veteran hit .268/.319/.472 paired with 18 home runs, 25 doubles, and his own 120 wRC+. The big drawback for d’Arnaud is his $8 million price tag. The Brewers could see if the Braves would be interested in Hunter Renfroe and his power to supplant Marcell Ozuna in the outfield. More would need to be added to the deal than just Renfroe, but this move could save the Brewers some in payroll in 2023 while bringing back a catcher with a bat that covers some of the power lost by sending out Renfroe.
If the Braves are not interested in either of those moves, the Brewers could look to bring back old friend Manny Pina to pair with Caratini. Pina is not nearly as exciting as the other two Braves catchers, but the Brewers know him and know that even at his floor-level offensive performance, the team would be getting solid defense.
The 35-year-old right-hander’s bat isn’t great, but he certainly can break out into a hot streak to help carry the offense for a time. In 2021, Pina hit one of those streaks in August and slashed .278/.350/.850. He is coming off of a wrist injury which is certainly concerning but he also comes with a $4.5 million salary for ‘23 but works better as a straight swap with Renfroe than d’Arnaud if the Braves were to express interest in him. While d’Arnaud or Contreras may be a bit of a fantasy to bring to Milwaukee, a Pina reunion is very realistic, and there could be a number of ways to construct a trade for him.
How do you view these catcher options? Does a Pina reunion make sense, or could you see the Brewers try to trade for the bigger names, even coming off of the down year?
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