ATLANTA (AP) — Travis d’Arnaud’s career appeared to be winding down. He missed nearly an entire season after blowing out his elbow. He was cut by the New York Mets and dumped by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now, he’s back on track.
At age 30, d’Arnaud has a prosperous new lease on his baseball life after agreeing to a $16 million, two-year contract with the NL East champion Atlanta Braves, his reward for an unexpected comeback season with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of years left,” the catcher said Monday during a conference call. “I want to keep getting better and become the player I’m supposed to be.”
D’Arnaud, a first-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies who made it to the majors with the New York Mets, played only four games in 2018 before Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
He returned last season but struggled mightily, hitting .083 in 10 games before he was let go by the Mets. He signed with the Dodgers, getting only a single at-bat before they shipped him to the Rays for $100,000.
In Tampa Bay, d’Arnaud regained his form. In 92 games, he matched his career high with 16 homers and tallied 67 of his career-best 69 RBIs for the season. The Rays earned an AL wild-card berth, knocking off Oakland before they were eliminated by Houston in a five-game AL Division Series.
“I will be forever grateful to that organization for giving me a chance to play again,” d’Arnaud said of the Rays. “I hope nothing but the best for everybody there. They have a very bright future.”
D’Arnaud’s future is in Atlanta, where he will be paired with Tyler Flowers in a catching arrangement that the Braves hope will be as effective as the ones they’ve had in recent seasons.
Flowers spent two years sharing playing time with Kurt Suzuki. Last season, Flowers was joined by Brian McCann in a duo that combined for 23 homers and 79 RBIs.
McCann announced his retirement shortly after the season ended with a loss to St. Louis in the NL Division Series. The Braves moved quickly to land d’Arnaud, who benefited from a hot market for catchers.
He signed just a few days after Yasmani Grandal landed a $73 million, four-year contract with the Chicago White Sox. They are both represented by the Wasserman agency.
“For me, to go into December and January knowing where I’m going to be at is huge,” d’Arnaud said. “I can get to know the guys really well. I can talk to all the coaches and all the players and be ready for spring training. I can be ready to go as soon as the season starts, so we can try to go out there and win another title in the East.”
D’Arnaud’s older brother, Chase, was a utility infielder for the Braves in 2016 and a played in a few games in 2017.
Atlanta has been one of the most aggressive teams of this offseason, signing free agents d’Arnaud and possible closer Will Smith as well as re-signing four players.
“My brother told me that Atlanta is an amazing place,” Travis said. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of the Braves.”
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.