Brian McCann is a catcher for the New York Yankees, who appear to have little need of his catching services. The Braves, who employed him for nine seasons, need a catcher in the worst way. Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckeball reports that McCann has cleared waivers, meaning that any team is free to trade for him. This has led many to speculate that B-Mac could be coming back.
Me, I’m not so sure.
As much as this might seem a rematch made in heaven, I’ve never gotten the sense that the Braves are eager to make it happen. The Yankees would have to agree to major concessions for the Braves even to consider it, and the Yankees don’t appear desperate to part with McCann. (More about that in a bit.)
McCann will turn 33 in February. He’ll earn $17 million in both 2017 and 2018. He has a vesting option for $15.5 million in 2019, by which time he’ll be 35. The Braves would doubtless want the Yankees to pay much if not most of what’s due McCann. The Braves would also balk at what’s sure to be the Yankees’ asking price in personnel — young prospects.
In the Braves’ three deals bracketing the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, they’ve shed nary a prospect. These were the ages of the four players shipped to the Rangers, Padres and Marlins: Lucas Harrell, 31; Dario Alvarez, 27; Hector Olivera, 31, and Hunter Cervenka, 26. Not one had been drafted by the Braves. Only Olivera was someone in whom the Braves were truly invested.
We say again: There will come a time when the Braves dip into what’s considered the industry’s best farm system to get what they don’t have. That time would not appear to be the year 2016.
Meanwhile, the imperial Yankees have embarked on a Braves-like course of divesting themselves of pricey veterans. Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were just traded; Mark Teixeira has announced his impending retired and Alex Rodriguez appears to be stepping aside as a player. The haul in prospects from those four deadline deals has made the Yankees a challenger for the designation of 2017’s best farm system. They’ll surely want for McCann the same thing they’ve gotten for Beltran, Chapman and Miller — young talent.
If the Yankees would agree to pay half McCann’s wages and want nobody among the Braves’ top 20 prospects, the Braves might do such a deal. They also might not. When McCann was about to become a free agent in autumn 2013, it was noted in this space that the issue wouldn’t be with the first few years of any new contract; the problem would come on the back end.
To say McCann has been a total dud in pinstripes would be incorrect: Over 2 2/3 seasons, he has a batting average of .232, an on-base percentage of .309 and a slugging percentage of .419. Contrast that, however, with his .277/.350/.473 as a Brave.
He can still hit home runs – he had a career-best 26 last season, along with a career-best-matching 94 RBIs – but no longer hits much else. This is a guy, you’ll recall, who batted .333 in his second big-league season and .301 in his fourth. That he’s no longer that McCann is beyond dispute. Even so, he’d be better than any catcher the Braves have at/near the major-league level.
And there’s the tangle: Would the Braves settle for a stopgap in McCann knowing they’d surely need another catcher soon? Why not buy Wilson Ramos or Matt Wieters – both are younger than McCann and, if we go by wins above replacement, Ramos is better – as a free agent and not have to worry over losing prospects now or hiring someone else to catch in 2019? (They’d probably lose a draft pick if they signed either, though.)
Were the Yankees to offer McCann while conceding to every Braves’ demand, I imagine they’d take him. (A famously friendly face would be welcome in SunTrust Park.) But why would the Yankees do that? They’ve got a gifted catching prospect in Gary Sanchez, yes, but they’ll also have a post-Teixeira vacancy at first base, and an American League team always has use for a lefty bat as DH. Being the Yankees, there’s no mandate to pinch every penny. They can afford $34 million over two more years.
With Freddie Freeman at first base, the NL-based Braves would have use for McCann only as a catcher. But how many more catching years does he have left? In his first five full seasons as a Brave, his average WAR (wins above replacement) value was 3.5; in 2 2/3 years with the Yankees, his average WAR is 2.0. He’s 57 percent of the player he was. And he, like all of us, is getting no younger.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.