- Written by Skye Paul, 11/15/2021
Manny Piña catching for the Milwaukee Brewers (2020)
The Atlanta Braves today announced the signing of Manny Piña to a two year contract worth eight million, including a four million dollar club option for 2024. Piña, 34, has played most of his major league career with the Milwaukee Brewers and has served as their backup / platoon catcher for the last several years.
While only playing a total of 75 games in 2021, Piña produced close to the ideal season you'd want out of the backup / platoon catcher role. The batting average doesn't look great, however he walked at an above average rate (10.6 BB%) and racked up 13 homers in 208 plate appearances, creating a .189/.293/.439 slash line (.732 OPS) with a 95 wRC+. These numbers are quite similar with his career averages. In fact, Piña put up a 92 wRC+ as a Brewer, only three points lower than his 2021 campaign.
While the offensive metrics are decent, Piña really shines on defense. He produced 4.2 framing runs, 0.5 blocking runs, and 4.9 CDA (Catchers Defensive Adjustment) in 2021 according to Baseball Prospectus. These are all above average totals, and remember, he only played 75 games, meaning his defensive value over a full season would be borderline elite.
Overall, Baseball Prospectus gave Piña 1.7 WARP (Prospectus Wins Above Replacement), which should be worth about 10 million per season on the open market. The Braves got him for four million per year. If you're wondering why use Baseball Prospectus to evaluate catchers, they incorporate framing and blocking measures into their WAR calculations, making it much more accurate at summing up the total value of a catcher. Other sites such an Fangraphs and Baseball Reference do not incorporate framing into their WAR calculation. I wrote about this in more detail in my Salvador Perez article, linked below:
Manny Piña's contract is clearly great value for the Braves, and in the ultra thin catchers market in the current free agent class, I'm very surprised Piña didn't get a better deal. Then again, many front offices can't seem to get past the low batting average for a multitude of players, nor have they caught on to up-to-date framing metrics. But how does Piña fit into the Braves roster?
With this addition, the Braves now arguably have four major league ready catchers in Travis D'Arnaud, Manny Piña, William Contreras, and Shea Langeliers. The initial reports from those familiar with the organization claim that Langeliers likely needs an additional year in AAA, and that Contreras could potentially be traded or kept in the minor leagues to improve his defense.
Both Piña and D'Arnaud are under contract for both 2022 and 2023, you'd figure one of them won't be around when Langeliers is inevitably given the full-time catching job. But those are concerns that go beyond this year, and shouldn't be a major focus, especially since both D'Arnaud and Piña are on team friendly deals.
In short, the Braves acquired good catching depth for a great price. Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has reportedly been very active in reaching out to free agents and teams. He likely saw the opportunity to sign a low cost catcher for good value, and snatched it while teams await the result of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the player's union and MLB.
Skye's rating of the signing: 8.5/10