The Dodgers have agreed to a one-year deal with catcher Travis d’Arnaud, tweets Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. Castillo adds via Twitter that infielder Matt Beaty has been optioned to Triple-A to make room for the former Mets backstop, who was released Friday after he was designated for assignment. Because he was released, his former club is on the hook for all of the $3.515MM contract he signed in the offseason, while the Dodgers will pay him at the league-minimum rate.
For the time being, the Dodgers will move forward with a trio of catchers on the active roster, with d’Arnaud joining Austin Barnes and Russell Martin in Los Angeles. That combination has provided the Dodgers with solid production, so don’t expect d’Arnaud to supplant either incumbent behind the plate. Interestingly, though, manager Dave Roberts said that he plans to deploy d’Arnaud not only as a catcher, but also in the infield and outfield. In his 7-year Major League career, d’Arnaud has never played the outfield and has appeared in just one game at both second and third base. Of course, both Martin and Barnes have experience playing the infield, so perhaps they are more viable candidates to move into a utility role.
With outfielder A.J. Pollock undergoing elbow surgery after he was placed on the 10-day IL, manager Dave Roberts and company found themselves in need of an additional right-handed bat. Without Pollock, the Dodgers’ starting outfield consists of Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, and Alex Verdugo, all lefties. Chris Taylor is the only other bench bat capable of playing the outfield, so the addition of d’Arnaud could afford Roberts additional flexibility to rest his lefty bats against southpaws: Taylor and Enrique Hernandez could slide to the outfield, with one of Barnes, Martin, and d’Arnaud filling an infield spot. This would allow for righty-dominant lineups with a host of left-handed batters available off the bench.
His new club will look for d’Arnaud to return to the form he showed in the 2015 season, when he hit 12 home runs in just 67 games to go along with a career-best .825 OPS. Notably, d’Arnaud has played more than 100 games in a season just twice in his career. Injuries have represented a repeated source of frustration for the veteran, including last year, when a partial UCL tear cost him all but 4 games of his age-29 campaign. Perhaps the Dodgers hope that reducing the number of innings d’Arnaud spends behind the plate will reduce his risk of injury and allow him to contribute throughout the year.
Regardless, it’s a low-risk transaction for the Dodgers, who have to spend virtually nothing to get a player who could pay dividends if he proves capable of playing several positions while hitting capably. If A.J. Pollock returns from injury in a timely fashion or d’Arnaud doesn’t pan out, the Dodgers aren’t obligated to keep him around, with Barnes and Martin holding down the fort behind the plate.