Posted on May 5, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
One week after being designated for assignment by the New York Mets, catcher Travis d’Arnaud has found a new home. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed d’Arnaud to a one-year deal Sunday. The Dodgers will now carry three catchers on their roster with the hope that a change of scenery can help d’Arnaud get going and make him a contributor in 2019.
The 30-year-old d’Arnaud was once the top catching prospect in baseball. However, his career has been derailed by a series of injuries, most recently Tommy John surgery that cost him almost the entire 2018 season. The Mets made a somewhat surprising move by bringing him back in 2019 to serve as the backup to Wilson Ramos, only to cut him loose after he began the season 2 for 23. Now the Dodgers will see if they can get anything out of d’Arnaud with the Mets picking up most of his $3.5 million salary.
When he’s been healthy, d’Arnaud has shown signs of being the strong offensive player he was supposed to be coming up in the minors. As a prospect, he was actually the centerpiece of a trade involving former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. He was New York’s primary catcher during their run to the World Series in 2015 and hit a career-high 16 home runs as recently as 2017, so d’Arnaud could have plenty left in the tank.
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“We’ve always liked him behind the plate, the way he receives and the quality of his at-bats,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of d’Arnaud. “He’s been a victim of injury the past few years. Great clubhouse guy and it gives us more options with that right-handed bat off the bench.”
Thus far, the Dodgers have used Austin Barnes and Russell Martin behind the plate. Barnes has been the primary catcher, and while he’s solid behind the plate, he has limitations offensively. Martin, meanwhile, can’t be expected to produce much at age 36, especially after hitting below .200 in Toronto last year.
That could leave the door open for d’Arnaud to earn some playing time behind the plate. The Dodgers also believe d’Arnaud is athletic enough to play other positions if his bat comes alive. If nothing else, d’Arnaud gives the Dodgers three catchers, meaning one of them can be used as a pinch hitter without worrying about a midgame injury to the starter.
“We’re going to move him around,” explains Roberts. “Just getting him here, the goal is to have that versatility all over the outfield, the infield. If you look at our roster, we have a lot of guys who are versatile. He’s going to be added to that.”
Only time will tell if adding d’Arnaud will pay dividends for Los Angeles. But this is a low-risk move by the Dodgers. Despite the slow start, d’Arnaud has some upside offensively. Playing part-time should also help him to avoid the injuries that have plagued him in the past. It’s possible that d’Arnaud could end up being a key part of the Los Angeles catching situation and the team’s bench. If not, the Dodgers didn’t give up anything to get him, making this a smart, no-lose addition for Los Angeles.