Five reasons why signing Brian McCann is a great move for the Yankees
While McCann would be a huge upgrade at catcher and was inarguably one of the top fish in this year’s free agent sea, that didn’t stop fans from wondering what the length, cost, and sheer scope of the deal meant for their beloved Bombers.
With McCann on board through 2018 and possibly 2019, they thought, what will that mean for the catchers in the Minors who are much ballyhooed as being part of a position with a lot of quality depth? And, with a $17 million average annual value, does this mean the $189 million threshold really is a goal and not a mandate – and if it isn’t, does that mean it’s now less likely Robinson Cano will be back?
None of those questions can be answered right now, of course, but what we can give you is five reasons why adding Brian McCann at this cost is a great move for the Yankees.
No. 1: Lefty power
Right off the bat, adding a powerful lefty bat to any Yankees lineup is reason enough to like the signing. McCann took over as the Braves’ everyday catcher in 2006, and over the last eight years, he has won five NL Silver Sluggers, hit 20 or more homers seven times (notching 18 in 2007), and slugged .400 or better almost that entire span (with a .399 SLG in 2012 just barely missing the cut).
In addition to that, the Yankees have used nine catchers since 2010, and that group has combined for 61 home runs – or 24 less than McCann himself, who has hit 85 in the last four seasons. Given the short porch in right field, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a guy who has averaged 22 homers a year since 2006 could up that total into the thirties – a plateau that five-time AL second base Silver Slugger Cano himself has reached just once since 2006.
No. 2: Durability
Last year aside, the Yankees’ hallmark over the last 15 years is durability with their catchers. After a time share in 1998 saw Jorge Posada catch 99 games (85 starts) and Joe Girardi catch 78 (76 starts), the next 11 years saw Posada catch at least 100 games in 10 of them with and only a torn shoulder muscle in 2008 (an injury that gave him his first career stint on the DL) breaking that streak.
Add in a near 50/50 Posada/Francisco Cervelli timeshare in 2010 and Russell Martin starting 116 and 117 games in his two years in pinstripes, and you can see 2013 was clearly the aberration and not the rule. Well, McCann fits nicely into that mold, as he started 113 or more games behind the plate every year from 2006-12 (with, ironically enough, only 93 in an injury-plagued year last year), so he will surely make whoever wins the derby for the second spot on the roster a true backup next year.
No. 3: Defense Second, but not by far
Last year, the Yankees’ catcher by committee was considered defense first, with any offense a “bonus” for the club. McCann isn’t necessarily as heralded a defender as one might like, but he did lead the NL in range factor as a catcher last year, had the best backstop fielding percentage in 2012, and led the league in potential base stealers caught as recently as 2010 – so he’s not exactly a statue back there, either.
Compared to the 2013 Yankees, McCann’s numbers were a little lesser defensively, but when you look at the simple offensive upgrade -- .217-8-43 for Yankees catchers vs. .256-20-57 in just 102 games for McCann – the “downgrade” defensively seems more than worth it.
No. 4: Flexibility
McCann is a catcher but doesn’t have to stay so, and to prove that the organization’s catching depth shouldn’t be too worried, we present a possible scenario based solely on top prospect Gary Sanchez’s assumed ascension to the throne.
McCann will be the everyday catcher in 2014, likely with one of Cervelli, Austin Romine, or Chris Stewart as his backup, J.R. Murphy (who has all three options left) and maybe Romine at Triple-A and Gary Sanchez (three options) at Double-A. Barring trades, the turn to 2015 could see Sanchez move up and either split time with Murphy at Triple-A or take over every day with Murphy ascending to a backup role in the Bronx, and by 2016, Sanchez is either the everyday guy at Triple-A or ready to at least play a small role in New York.
McCann has never played first base, but with 2016 being the final year of Mark Teixeira’s contract, it’s very possible that he could learn (while a 36-year-old Tex takes some DH days) while also DH’ing and spelling Sanchez/Murphy behind the plate – and in 2017, McCann takes over at first while the kiddie corps takes over behind the plate full time.
All conjecture of course, but it gives the Yankees both time to fully develop their backstops and also a possible fallback at first base if someone isn’t ready/available to be Teixeira’s replacement.
No. 5: A sign of things to come?
Back in 2008, the Yankees failed to reach the postseason, and that winter, they struck early and laid out more than $400 million in total commitment to Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett – and promptly won the World Series.
Here we are five years later, and already, a playoffs-free season has been followed up with one big free agent signing and possibly more (Cano? Shin-Soo Choo or Carlos Beltran? Masahiro Tanaka?) to come.
Hey, one can dream where that ends, right?