The Braves made a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to free agent Brian McCann, assuring they’ll at least receive a compensatory draft pick if the catcher signs with another team.
As expected, McCann was the only one of the Braves’ free agents to receive a qualifying offer before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline. Free agents have one week to accept or decline the offers; last year all nine major league free agents who received qualifying offers declined them.
The Braves have also made a one-year offer (not a qualifying offer) to free-agent pitcher Tim Hudson, whom they’d like to bring back at a salary significantly lower than his $9 million in 2013.
Also Monday, the team declined a $1.6 million option on veteran outfielder/pinch-hitter Reed Johnson, opting to pay the $150,000 buyout and making him a free agent. General manager Frank Wren said declining the option wouldn’t necessarily preclude the Braves from pursuing Johnson later.
Hudson, 38, is recovering from the broken ankle that ended his season in late July, and could begin throwing later this month after having a surgical screw removed. Eight other teams have already expressed interest in the right-hander, who has 205 career wins include 113 in nine seasons with the Braves. He was 8-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 21 starts in 2013.
McCann will almost certainly decline the qualifying offer, as it’s believed he’ll command a multi-year offer worth $15 million or more annually for at least five seasons, most likely from an American League team such as the Red Sox, Rangers or Yankees. Ten teams have already expressed interest in McCann according to his agent, B.B. Abbott.
Any team that signs him would give up a first-round pick in the June free-agent draft, or a second-round pick if their first-rounder is among the protected first 10 picks. The Braves would receive a compensatory draft pick created after the first round, not the pick lost by the team that signs McCann.
The pick forfeited by the signing team is eliminated, thus condensing the first round.
Nine free agents including Braves center fielder Michael Bourn received qualifying offers after the 2012 season, when the amount was $13.3 million in the first year of the qualifying-offer system. None of the nine accepted the offer.
McCann is a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger award winner, and the Georgia native is one of the most popular Braves among fans and teammates. The Braves aren’t expected to make a long-term offer comparable to what some other teams will make for McCann, who came back strong after a career-worst season in 2012.
After missing the first month of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, he hit .256 with 20 home runs and a .796 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 102 games, the seventh time he’s hit at least 20 homers in eight full seasons.
The Braves have a mid-level payroll and younger, cheaper options at catcher including Evan Gattis, who hit .243 with 21 homers and 65 RBIs in 354 at-bats as a rookie while splitting time between catcher and left field, and cannon-armed prospect Christian Bethancourt. Veteran backup Gerald Laird is also under contract through 2014.
McCann has spent his entire career in the Braves organization after being a second-round draft pick out Duluth High School in 2002. He has a .277 career average and .350 on-base percentage, and leads all major league catchers with 171 home runs and 638 RBIs since the beginning of the 2006 season, his first full season.
The next-highest totals among catchers in that span are A.J. Pierzynski’s 117 homers and Joe Mauer’s 562 RBIs.