One of the most perplexing cases looking forward to the fall free agent market is Atlanta catcher Brian McCann. While the Braves lavished $75M on B.J. Upton, they essentially passed on tying up McCann, who will go on the market in November at age 29, younger than Robinson Cano (30), Jacoby Ellsbury (30) or Shin Soo Choo (31).
McCann is the ballast of the Braves, the catcher of choice for the pitching staff—a staff that other than Mike Minor and Julio Teheran may need leadership the next couple of years. Coming off a shoulder issue that limited him the first month, McCann opened the week second among major league catchers in slugging (.498), in the top four in OPS (.840); his 18 homers are second only to Colorado’s Wili Rosario.
The early season promise and story of Evan Gattis was wonderful, but since early June his 3.50 pitches per at-bat have caught up to him; he’s hit .188 with three homers and a .581 OPS. They have long believed Christian Bethancourt, who turns 22 next week, is their catcher of the future, but while he has hit .284 with 12 homers in double-A, his .312 on base percentage portends of a difficult adjustment in the majors, as he also learns the pitchers.
Think about McCann in Yankee Stadium. Or with the Dodgers, although A.J. Ellis is such an integral part of that pitching staff. Texas and that park? Philadelphia? Detroit?
Putting off dealing with McCann is going to cost the Braves more than they may think they can pay, especially when one assumes that B.J. Upton is immovable and they may have to go get another pitcher if Brandon Beachy’s elbow is an issue. Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons are the core of a very good team for several years, but take away McCann and maybe they can sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia or some other veteran, maybe they cannot, and they will find they may have underestimated just how good Brian McCann has been.