Atlanta welcomed back its starting catcher, Brian McCann, two days ago and he has proceeded to go 1-8 with a single, a walk and a strikeout. He’s working his way back to the club after shoulder surgery and looks to cement himself as the guy behind the plate. His younger teammate Evan Gattis has something to say about that. The rookie backstop has compiled a .260/.305/.563 slash line with a very good 132 wRC+ rating. With McCann set to become a free agent at season’s end, the Braves might look to send him off for prospects — or let him walk — rather than pay the huge sum to retain his services.
While McCann is primarily a catcher, Gattis has the ability to play two other positions (left field and first base). It’s that flexibility and his hot hand to start the year, that has some believing that Gattis will overtake McCann’s spot, while the latter looks for work elsewhere. It’s an interesting proposition to say the least because McCann is entering his prime years, and is two years removed from a .270/.351/.466 (121 wRC+) campaign in which he hit 24 home runs and knocked in 71 runs. Needless to say, offensive catchers are difficult to come by, so McCann will command a ton of money on the open market.
So who are among the teams that would presumably make a run at acquiring/trade for the 29-year-old catcher? The big fish in the sea (Dodgers, Rangers, Yankees) have to be high on the list.
Although their catcher, A.J. Ellis, is perfectly capable of holding down the position from both an offensive and defensive standpoint, it’s hard to argue McCann wouldn’t make that lineup even more dangerous. The flip side to that is the club has Tim Federowicz stashed in AAA who is ripe for a call-up, obtaining McCann would almost make either Ellis or Federowicz available to the highest bidder.
The Yanks found themselves in a peculiar position this past offseason when they decided to go cheap and stick to a budget. That seemingly backfired when they lost their starting catcher Russell Martin via free agency. While they’ve gotten good production from Francisco Cervelli, some argue he’s just a very good backup, not a starter. The club also has youngsters Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings, so a long-term deal for McCann could stunt their ascension to the majors.
The Rangers are seemingly in on every free agent or trade rumor and McCann is no exception. Their starter, A.J. Pierzynski, and backup, Geovany Soto are gone after 2013. That leaves a huge hole to fill on a championship-caliber club. The team will likely sign one them this offseason and go hard after McCann. Or they might decide to go cheap and go all-in on McCann and call-up Robinson Chirinos who is hitting .295/.404/.487 in 94 ABs in AAA this year.
McCann will undoubtedly be a hot commodity this offseason or even at the trade deadline. The Braves are in a great position with their catching depth with Gattis, Gerald Laird, and up-and-comer Christian Bethancourt. When a team such as Atlanta is in the driver’s seat, they can demand a king’s ransom for their player’s services. Two questions remain, do the Braves let him walk or get something for him while they still have him? And how long will McCann stay behind the plate?
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs