The Braves brought fan favorite Brian McCann back to Atlanta to fill their catching void, reaching a one-year agreement worth $2 million.
McCann, 34, played for the Braves from 2005-13. A Gwinnett County native who played high school baseball at Duluth, McCann is a seven-time All-Star (six consecutively) and won a World Series with the Astros in 2017.
He departed for the Yankees prior to the 2014 season. McCann spent three seasons in New York before being traded to Houston, which declined its team option on the catcher earlier this winter.
As McCann worded it, Atlanta was the perfect fit.
“To be home, this is a day I didn’t know would happen when I left,” McCann said Monday. “But this is as special as a day for me as any I’ve had in my career. To put this uniform back on, the love I have for this organization, the love I have for everybody from top to bottom I’ve known since I was 18 years old - to come back here, this opportunity means a lot.
“I want to come back. I want to win a championship here. This team they have has the possibility to do that. That’s why I’m here.”
From 2005-13, McCann hit .277 with 176 homers and 661 RBIs for the Braves. He developed into one of the game’s best catchers and, alongside friend Jeff Francoeur, was a face of the ‘Baby Braves.’
Each of McCann’s All-Star appearances came in a Braves uniform. He also earned five Silver Sluggers (2006, 2008-11).
Only two Braves currently remain from McCann’s days: first baseman Freddie Freeman and starter Julio Teheran. But McCann made it clear he can teach the current crop of youngsters the same lessons John Smoltz and others taught him.
There’s value in paying it forward. The Braves identified a player who was an ideal add to the organization. They saw someone who can better those around him, as the boss put it.
“This is a deal that does not get done without Brian wanting to be here,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “We’re thrilled with what he brings to the clubhouse, on and off the field. ... More than anything else, Brian is the one who drove this.”
McCann hit .212/.301/.339 across 63 games for the Astros in 2018. He adds veteran leadership to a young Braves clubhouse and will split time with fellow Georgia native Tyler Flowers at catcher, whom he played with in the minors.
The Braves prioritized adding another backstop this offseason. Kurt Suzuki, who paired with Flowers the past two seasons, left for Washington in free agency.
Miami’s J.T. Realmuto was a trade target but the asking price, along with the Marlins’ reported reluctance to trade their best player within the division, complicated those talks.
Enter McCann, who rejoins the franchise that raised him on a modest deal. He previously expressed desire to conclude his career with the Braves.
He saw the importance of playing at home for his family. He loved the idea of playing for manager Brian Snitker, the man who informed him he’d been called up to the big leagues 14 years ago.
“One hundred percent,” McCann said when asked last offseason if he would want to retire a Brave. “One hundred percent. This is my home. I played close to 10 years here. This organization is really, really, really close to my heart. I love this organization.
“Listen, I came up through this organization,” he said. “Spent some amazing years (with the Braves). I’ll always be an Atlanta Brave. So I love this organization, and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
The future, as fate would have it, pegged him back to the organization he loves. He and his wife, Ashley, still reside in the Atlanta area and have been pillars in the community, including their charity work with the Rally Foundation.
He continued following the Braves after leaving. He watched them endure a blow-it-up-style rebuild. He now sees them as a World Series contender.
“This is perfect timing for my two kids, my wife to be home. To help this team win a championship,” he said.
Shortly after news broke on McCann, the Braves neared agreement with third baseman Josh Donaldson to a lucrative one-year deal, pending a physical. The shorter agreements allow the Braves to balance winning now and planning for later, evaluating their younger in-house options at catcher and third base over the long haul.
It could also make it easier for the team to invest prospects in an outfielder or rotation upgrade, given that the organization already upgraded without dipping into its assets.
In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Braves designated left-handed pitcher Ricardo Sanchez for assignment.