New York Mets hitch their wagon to James McCann

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 26: James McCann #33 of the Chicago White Sox hits a home run against the Chicago Cubs at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 26: James McCann #33 of the Chicago White Sox hits a home run against the Chicago Cubs at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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The New York Mets are set to sign James McCann as their primary catcher, taking a major gamble that his small sample size improvements are not a fluke.

The New York Mets had several very defined holes on their roster at the start of the offseason. Catcher was a priority, but the Mets also needed another arm for the rotation and help in the bullpen. The latter had been worked on with the signing of Trevor May, but there was still plenty more work to be done.

Part of that work was done on Saturday. According to reports, the Mets are set to sign James McCann to be the answer behind the plate, as he will be receiving a four year contract worth more than $40 million.

McCann completely turned his career around in Chicago. A strong defensive presence behind the plate, he developed into a threat into the batter’s box. In his 587 plate appearances with the White Sox, he posted a .276/.334/.474 batting line with 25 homers and 29 doubles. Those numbers are certainly worth that type of contract.

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But the fact remains that this is essentially a full season’s worth of plate appearances. Prior to his time in Chicago, McCann posted a .240/.288/.366 batting line with the Tigers, hitting 40 homers and 58 doubles in 1658 plate appearances.

It does typically take time for a catcher to reach their offensive peak. McCann having those impressive seasons at 29 and 30 years old is entirely in line with that expectation. His batted ball data, with increases in hard hit rate, exit velocity, and barrel rates, back those improvements up. He could very well be the player he has been over the past two seasons.

But this is still a gamble for the Mets. McCann may well have been the second best catcher on the market, but J.T. Realmuto is still available. This move does set the Mets up to make other signings in free agency, as they have been linked to Trevor Bauer and George Springer, but it also sets the team up for disappointment.

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The New York Mets are taking a gamble that James McCann’s improvement over the past two years is sustainable. For better or worse, they have hitched their wagon to the former White Sox catcher.